Skip to main content

CUCE-affiliated Manhattan high school set to build cutting-edge aquaponics greenhouse

A breakdown of the public support received for the project:

• City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, $800,000

• Borough President Scott Stringer, $470,000

• N.Y. Sen. Tom Duane, $100,000

Total project cost is planned at $2 million, with additional support provided by Cornell.

With more than $1 million of public support now in place, the dream of creating a rooftop cutting-edge aquaponics greenhouse at one of New York's most innovative high schools is about to become a reality.

Officials at Food and Finance High School and partners at Cornell University Cooperative Extension-New York City (CUCE-NYC) announced Aug. 5 that the school has secured a total of $1.37 million through the offices of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and N.Y. Sen. Tom Duane. The funding allows the high school to move toward construction of the 4,500-square-foot project at its 525 W. 50th St. facility -- a rooftop green revolution that will advance the school's science curriculum, offer students a hands-on education in state-of-the-art growing skills and help feed the community.

Work is expected to begin at the site this fall.

"This exciting roof project really puts us at the cutting edge of science technology, education and food production," said Food and Finance Principal Roger Turgeon. "For a culinary arts school in an urban area, to be able to produce food at this scale is a major achievement."

The aquaponics greenhouse will link the school's advanced aquaculture and hydroponics programs under a new rooftop structure on the northwestern portion of the campus. Nutrient water from the school's tilapia tanks will be used to help sustain the plants, while the plants provide a natural filter to clean the water for the fish. The greenhouse will get a significant amount of its power from solar, wind and hydro energy technologies -- minimizing the project's demands on the electrical grid and its carbon footprint.

The greenhouse will be used for teaching, food production and as a science hub for the New York City area, said Philson Warner, CUCE scientist and developer of the aquaponics technology to be used in the project. Food produced will be used in the school's culinary programs and at the school's cafeteria, and also be sold to local restaurants and donated to area homeless shelters.

"The technology is unique, and the results will be eye-opening to many. The mutually sustainable hydroponic and aquaculture systems, forming a high-functioning aquaponic system, will use minimal energy and in fact may contribute to the city's power grid," said Warner. "Students will have firsthand knowledge of how science is used to produce the cleanest and freshest food possible -- scientific training that will really give them a leg up in getting into good colleges."

Cornell is a lead partner with the New York City Department of Education in building Food and Finance High School into one of the jewels of the nation's largest public education system. The school emphasizes the core academic courses, as well as taking advantage of Cornell's knowledge and resources to create a unique program in the culinary arts and finance related to the food industry. Its 400-plus students are prepared for both college and careers in the food industry.

"Providing the opportunity for students to connect the production, preparation and consumption of food is unprecedented," said Turgeon. "It also enables us to promote and teach sustainability and healthy eating. Today, it is not enough to teach culinary arts -- students must understand food systems and be environmentally cognizant."

Media Contact

John Carberry