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US (NY): Brooklyn Community Collega granted $250k for hydroponic project

Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York (KCC) has received a grant of $250,000 to launch a two-year initiative to equip New Yorkers with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the emerging hydroponic farming sector.

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grant as part of a $4.7 million investment in agricultural workforce training at community colleges. NIFA was established by the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Farm Bill) to find innovative solutions to issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities.

NIFA's agricultural workforce training program goal is to develop a workforce ready for the field as well as industry jobs in the food and agricultural sector. Through the development of new workforce training programs or the expansion, improvement, or renewal of existing workforce training programs at community, junior, and technical colleges/institutes, this program will expand job-based, experiential learning opportunities, acquisition of industry-accepted credentials and occupational competencies for students to enable a work-ready labor force for the 21st century.

Titled "Hydroponics at Kingsborough Community College" (H-KCC), the project aims to bridge the knowledge gap and create opportunities for individuals interested in hydroponic farming in order to contribute to a more sustainable and locally-driven food production landscape. Currently, New York City lacks comprehensive hydroponic training programs that offer workforce preparation and higher educational advancement in this field.

"Hydroponics is important because it helps us grow food efficiently, especially in urban environments when we don't have a lot of space to grow, or we may be dealing with depleted or contaminated soils," noted Dr. Shannon Caravello, assistant professor of health sciences at KCC and administrator of the KCC Community Farm and Garden. She is spearheading the H-KCC project. "Plants grow faster and can have increased production in hydroponics due to precise control of their environment, and it allows year-round farming even in small spaces or indoors, making sure we have a steady supply of delicious vegetables. Having alternative growing methods can help alleviate food insecurity issues, especially when dealing with increasing climate issues worldwide."

"As our communities continue to be affected by the climate crisis, it is more critical now than ever to empower college students to become leaders and advocates for climate justice and to provide them with tools to build a climate-resilient society," added Manuela Zamora, executive director of NY Sun Works, which is building the hydroponic lab at the College. "This innovative new program will help students to bridge the green divide and gain access to new green career options."

The project will begin with a pilot phase targeting recent high school graduates interested in the green economy and alternative farming methods, particularly those from schools with hydroponic facilities. Following the pilot's successful evaluation, the program will expand to accommodate two additional cohorts open to the wider public.

KCC President Claudia Schrader explained that KCC's commitment to fostering innovation, sustainability, and community development drives the Hydroponics at KCC project. "Preparing and educating our students on a wide range of urban agriculture growing methods will contribute to a highly prepared workforce, which can help us move toward a more sustainable food system in New York City."

For more information:
Kingsborough Community College
Tel.: +1 718 368 6578

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