The Science Barge is a self-sustaining floating farm and environmental education center that will provide an urban link to fresh produce, marine conservation and sustainability. The Barge’s goal is to promote ecological sustainability through public demonstration, education and research projects related to the urban waterfront. In particular, its ability to grow crops without soil in a hydroponic greenhouse powered by solar panels, wind turbines, and biofuels, makes learning about sustainability and conservation tangible in an innovative and exciting way.
The Barge is a showcase for efficient, sustainable system designs that have positive impacts on our natural resources.
Air: The Science Barge will be run on 100% renewable energy, with no emissions a net zero carbon footprint. 80% of the Barge’s energy needs are met by collecting solar energy on a 12-panel, passive-tracking photovoltaic setup. Five on-site wind microturbines meet the remaining energy needs, with backup provided by a biodiesel generator powered by waste vegetable oil (often secured from local restaurants). Finally, growing and providing local produce, as well as sustainably farmed locally indigenous fish, reduces farm-to-plate miles and the air pollution associated with food transport.
Water: The Science Barge’s hydroponic system uses up to 10 times less water than traditional agricultural systems. A rainwater catchment system with the capacity to store 1200 gallons is backed up by a reverse osmosis system that can desalinate seawater when necessary. All water used to feed plants is recirculated, ensuring that no excess nutrients are added to rivers and bays. The Barge utilizes a variety of natural feedstocks and recycled substrates to fertilize plants, and deploys biological pest control to kill harmful pests, eliminating chemical water contamination.
Land: Hydroponics does not require any soil and uses up to 20 times less land than traditional agricultural systems. Our systems can increase productivity even further by capitalizing on vertical space through a vertically-integrated-greenhouse system.
Waste: The Barge features a range of composting and recycling methods to demonstrate the efficacy and ease of these systems. The shipping container can be outfitted with a composting toilet. Our vermaculture, aerated composting system and onboard constructed wetland system not only help reduce waste, but provide teaching opportunities for those interested in implementing these systems at the individual or school-building scale.
Education: Our curriculum creates an intimate and tangible opportunity for students grades K-12 to engage with STEM topics through the physical sciences. Educational programming incorporates all learning styles through dynamic hands-on activities, visual representations, and spoken guided directions. Students will learn the physics of energy and storage, the chemistry of natural systems, the biology of plant nutrition and natural pest management, the ecological science of finite natural resources, and the social entrepreneurship needed to drive environmentally friendly behaviors globally.
Location: The Science Barge will be located on the water at a public park along Biscayne Bay, adding value to the park without compromising any of the parks limited green space. The Barge’s location in a park will allow visitors, some who have never accessed the waterfront, the opportunity to be out on the water. This location will allow students to test and evaluate water samples using the scientific method, grow barnacles, and use scoop nets and microscopes to discover microorganisms living in the Bay. Additionally, students will learn about native South Florida marine species through discussions on aquaponics, coral reefs, and conservation efforts.