Background and Information by Petra Davis

On July 15, 2009, the Green Star Award was presented to Pikes Waterfront Lodge. The Green Star Award recognizes statewide companies that are dedicated to ecological advances. Among other initiatives, Pikes Waterfront Lodge is the first Alaska business to use a hydroponic aggregation system in a corporate greenhouse.

A hydroponic growing system is one in which plant are grown in a nutrient solution with or without the use of an artificial medium. By utilizing a hydroponic aggregate system, Pike’s is in the forefront in ecological awareness and community involvement.

A Hydroponic aggregation system is highly productive, conservative of natural resources, and ecologically responsible. Typically sunlight, water and nutrients are the main abiotic factors in the productivity of standing crop. The hydroponic system in Fairbanks allows routine watering and controlled amount of essential nutrients, as well as taking advantage of the long Alaska summer days all of which enhance the ultimate productivity within the greenhouse.

In 2009, students from University of Alaska Fairbanks and Future Farmers of American grew produce enough to provide Pike’s with fresh produce and have enough to sell in a local farmers market. The growing systems within the greenhouse can be grown completely in an aqueous solution or with the support of a solid medium.

In place at Pike’s Greenhouse right now are various hydroponic systems grown completely in aqueous solutions these include; Nutrient Film Technique, Areoponic practices, Vertical Growing, and Deep Water Bubble systems; all of which allow mass circulation of nutrient solution and accurate measurements of important abiotic factors such as ph levels, electrical conductivity, water levels, and constant regulation of essential nutrients.

Other hydroponic systems used within the greenhouse include; Ebb and Flow, Dutch Potato Buckets, an Areogarden, the Floating Pond ,Drip Hydroponic, Rockwool blocks and Top Irrigation. These hydroponic systems use an artificial medium typically; vermiculite, Rockwool, Perlite, Peatmoss or a siliceous rock. By not utilizing soil one prevents soil born diseases, pest infestation and over development of land.

The hydroponics system at Pike’s is not only environmentally proactive, it also provides a unique way to involve and expose the community to more environmentally friendly practices. Currently University of Alaska Fairbanks students of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences along with the Future Farmers of America program are working with the new hydroponic aggregation system. They are learning both about new aggregation systems and photosynthetic rates.

A major hypothesis being presented is that plants given enough nutrients and water will continue to photosynthesis as long there is enough sunlight exposure. The students will be tracking the photosynthetic rates of tomato plants throughout the summer in order to collect data for an ample analysis.

Along with working in the greenhouse, students conduct summer tours of the greenhouse, do landscape work for the hotel and adjacent restaurant, and set up a farmers market selling fresh produce to the community.

According to Professor Meriam Karlsson “Pike’s is very supportive of us and FFA”; Jay Ramras, the owner of Pike’s Waterfront Lodge, thinks “It’s a wonderful collaboration.” Pike’s has installed a unique cooperative program that is knitting the community together and pushing the forefront of ecologically responsible practices. Congratulations to Pike’s Waterfront Lodge for their ecological advances and community involvement.

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SNRAS, . “Growing opportunity: UAF hydroponics and the FFA at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge.” (2008): n. pag. Web. 7 Jul 2010.