Crafted by faculty, staff, and students, the unique display is part of the Onondaga Lake exhibit: “Onondaga Lake: A Fresh Gateway to a New New York,” a 3,000 square-foot marvel in the Center of Progress Building that takes visitors on a journey from the early years of Onondaga Lake to its current cleanup.
Morrisville’s showpiece provides a close-up look at fish and vegetable farming benefiting each other in a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) aquaponics greenhouse, a type of technology that manipulates the growing environment to provide year-round food production.
Fairgoers will get the feel of being in an actual greenhouse where urban rooftop farming is taking place. The grandiose display features a colorful mural of a cityscape, made by Syracuse artist Peter Pullen, along with lettuce and tomatoes growing nearby. A colossal fish tank filled with 300-400 gallons of water and approximately 50 tilapia, freshwater fish that grow well in greenhouse environments, add to its allure.
The college’s demonstration shows how aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil), makes it possible to produce locally grown vegetables and fish while reducing or eliminating the use of non-renewable inorganic fertilizers that are typically used.
“Through our exhibit we want to educate people that you can grow food in the city and that CEA is an environmentally and socially sustainable, and potentially economical agricultural option,” said Laurie Trotta, director of the college’s aquaculture center and coordinator of the display.
“Aquaculture and aquaponics is agriculture and it is suitable for urban to rural environments and can range from a small home garden to a large-scale commercial operation,” she explained.
The display, which will be staffed by faculty, staff, students, volunteers and alumni with CEA greenhouse experience, will also feature a video describing the components and processes of growing the fish and plants in the Morrisville system.
Fairgoers will be able to access more information from a brochure or digitally through QR codes and their smartphones or by accessing two computer kiosks in the display. There will also be graphics about the college’s CEA greenhouse, sustainability, urban renewal, and urban agriculture, including the Helping Hands’ Urban Farming Initiative in Syracuse.
Overall, the Onondaga Lake exhibit shows how coordinated remediation efforts between state and local partners of Onondaga Lake are providing future economic vitality.
“As a leader in agriculture and green initiatives within the SUNY system, we support efforts to stimulate economic growth while maintaining the integrity and sustainability of food sources, water, and soil,” said Chris Nyberg, Dean of Morrisville’s School of Agriculture, Sustainability, Business and Entrepreneurship.
The environmentally conscious college teamed up with engineering firm O’Brien and Gere in designing its own CEA campus greenhouse where tilapia, a variety of lettuce and herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and strawberries are produced. The produce is sent to the college’s dining facilities and the Copper Turret, a college-run restaurant, while the tilapia is sold locally. Morrisville Fresh, a student-run LLC and part of the agricultural business program, also sells the produce grown in the greenhouse at farmers’ markets and on-campus.
Additional State Fair presence
The college will have additional presence at the Fair which runs from Aug. 22-Sept. 2. Fairgoers can learn more about horses housed in the college’s building located near Gate 4 by the Coca-Cola Coliseum and the Iroquois Indian Village.
In addition to horses, the college’s automotive department will showcase a drag racing car which was built by automotive technology students, and the college’s renewable energy program will exhibit a portable wood gasification system for producing electricity from wood and agricultural waste.
Participants can also obtain an array of information about the college, athletics, activities, and speak to faculty and staff about the college’s program offerings, including new degrees in culinary arts management, videojournalism and applied psychology. Morrisville State alumni are encouraged to stop by and access materials to find fellow classmates, enjoy history about the college and get caught up on its expansion and progress. Alumni Day at the Fair is Aug. 24.
The college will also have a presence and provide samples in the Taste New York Marketplace (formerly Pride of New York), managed by the Morrisville State College Auxiliary Corporation (MAC) through Nelson Farms. Located at the main entrance to the Fair, the building resembles an old-time store stocked with food grown or produced in every corner of New York State.
The School of Agriculture, Sustainability, Business and Entrepreneurship will also have an exhibit in the Future Farmers’ of America (FFA) Building. Additionally, the college will participate in the SUNY Day display Aug. 30 in Center Court.
Equine faculty and students will be honing their prowess, competing with the Morrisville College Foundation’s six-horse Belgian hitch in the coliseum near the dairy barn. Admission to the horse show is free. Morrisville is the only college in North America to compete with a six-horse hitch.
Morrisville State students will also be volunteering at the cow birthing center which is making its debut at the Fair this year.
Pictured Seth Carsten, left, instructional support associate in environmental sciences and renewable energy, and Eric Bremiller, right, CEA greenhouse supervisor, work on Morrisville State’s interactive showpiece that will be part of the Onondaga Lake Display at The Great New York State Fair. The display will be in the Center of Progress Building.
Photo by Nicolas Murphy, public relations assistant