Ivy Tech erecting massive greenhouse

August 30th, 2017

By Ashley Sloboda | The Journal Gazette

Describing the facility that's under development at Ivy Tech as just a greenhouse seems like an understatement.

The structure, which is on the southwest corner of The Steel Dynamics Inc. Keith E. Busse Technology Center, won't be like any other offered at other Ivy Tech campuses. None have the hydroponics capabilities – growing plants with water and no soil – and the aquaponics systems – hydroponics assisted by farmed fish – the Fort Wayne campus will boast, said Kelli Kreider, the agriculture program chair.

The college can “integrate so many components in this facility, it's incredible,” she said.

The more than 3,000-square-foot greenhouse is being financed by $486,000 in donations and grants from private individuals and foundations.

Ivy Tech this month recognized Old National Bank for its contribution. It is donating $50,000 in the next three years toward the greenhouse and $11,000 during the same time frame to provide scholarships for Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana clients who will participate in agriculture and culinary training programs, according to a news release.

Kreider anticipates the greenhouse will boost enrollment.

“We also hope to attract a different audience wishing to learn how to grow food using non-traditional farming methods,” she said, noting new classes will include greenhouse management, hydroponics and wine appreciation.

Lettuce, herbs and tomatoes will be among the initial staples, Kreider said, indicating a desire to maximize production. Hospitality administration majors will use the produce in cooking assignments, she said, and the food might even benefit the college's food truck.

“It's a learning process for all of us,” she said.

Eventually, she said, the greenhouse should be self-sustainable. The college hopes to install solar panels and a wind turbine in addition to collecting rainwater from the gutters for use elsewhere, she said.

“The possibilities are endless,” she said.

The campus's existing greenhouse, which is about as small as Kreider's office, will continue to be used for soil-based plants, she said.

The greenhouse is expected to open with a formal dedication this fall.

“It's going to be a state-of-the-art facility that our college and city can be proud of,” Margaret Sturm, executive director of resource development, said in a statement.