University of Toronto Sky Garden uses the BIOTOP system
The minds behind the Sky Garden: CivE graduate students Kyla Smith, Sarah Wilson and Heather Wray. Toronto’s Sky Garden. “Our final harvest was 214 kg!! Based on prices of local, organic vegetables at Toronto farmer’s markets, we estimate the market value of all this produce at $2700!!”
Engineering Graduate Students Complete Harvest
U of T Faculty of Applied Sciences and Engineering
But with space in Toronto at such a premium, where can you find a place to plant? Try looking up. Way up. If you’re on campus in the heart of U of T Engineering, you just might spot a leafy green or two.
Tucked under the clouds atop the conjoining rooftops of the Galbraith and Sanford Fleming buildings is the Sky Garden.
The first of its kind on Canadian university rooftops, Sky Garden is an urban agriculture initiative by CivE graduate students Kyla Smith, Sarah Wilson and PhD candidate Heather Wray of the Civil Engineering Drink Water Research Group.
According to Wray and Smith, not only is the garden an excellent means to engage students and faculty alike, she hopes it will also inspire Engineers to look at rooftops in a more socially beneficial way, “A project like the Sky Garden is a great way to showcase alternative uses for rooftop spaces. The design for this project had to incorporate an existing rooftop, taking into consideration roof membrane protection and load-bearing requirements. By recognizing rooftops as potential spaces for urban agriculture, new buildings could be designed to support more intensive gardens.”
“This is a perfect example of how civil engineers can expand the use of urban infrastructure to improve our communities. What a wonderful idea for urban sustainability,” said Brenda McCabe, Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering.
Launched to bountiful success last summer as a pilot project, Sky Garden has tripled in size in its second year to a surface area of 75 sq. m., with 113 semi-hydroponic, dual-compartment containers that house a variety of plants including tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, zucchini, beans and more. Growing to great new heights, it promises to be Toronto’s most productive rooftop garden.
The story of the BIOTOP system goes back a long time, and represents many years of research.
It has been tested extensively by Dr Yolande Dalpé’s research team at the laboratory installations of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.
It is a container system that enhances the symbiotic interactions between the differentiated nourishing root hairs, the mycorrhizal fungi and the soil bacteria. It is light weight, easy to automatize, and will produce up to three times more vegetables than in full soil, while using twice as less water.
This fully patented Canadian innovation has been used quite extensively here in Montreal, Sherbrooke, and in Québec City.