Two UTM alumni and co-owners of the company Just Vertical, Conner Tidd and Kevin Jakiela, have constructed two new vertical gardens for the Student Centre and OPH.

The project was done in collaboration with the Masters of Science in Sustainability Management Program, the UTM 50th Legacy committee which UTMSU sits on, Leena Arbaji, who is the sustainability coordinator at UTMSU, I-CUBE, the Impact Centre, and the Institute for Management and Innovation.

According to Tidd, the overall project cost about $10,000, with a majority of the funds used for the construction and maintenance of the physical unit.

“What excites us about this method of growing is that we can use up to 99 per cent less water, grow on average two weeks faster than outdoor agriculture, use little to no pesticides, and have zero environmental runoff from fertilizers,” said Tidd, explaining that the plants are being grown in a water and nutrient solution.

Tidd stated that the UTMSU is currently growing lettuce and basil, while the garden at OPH is growing a variety of produce. Overall, the gardens have tested over 60 different types of produce.

Salma Fakhry, president of UTMSU, said in an email to The Medium, “All the food grown will be given to our Food Centre. Our programs like the ‘Good Food Box’, ‘Food Centre’ and ‘Free Breakfast Wednesdays’ all aim at alleviating the rising cost of education off students and making sure they receive the nutrition they need.”

Over 1,000 pounds of produce are expected to be grown every year.