Guest post by Dinova's director of strategic accounts, Janice McEachen.

There is a lot of talk about “Farm to Table” cuisine these days. And naturally some restaurants are certainly more diligent about sourcing locally than others. Dinova recently added Bidwell Restaurant into the marketplace and it is an exemplary case of one chef’s commitment to sustainability. Chef John Mooney employs hydroponic (specifically aeroponic) growing methods to provide his busy Washington D.C. restaurant with produce that is grown right on the restaurant’s rooftop, and then is used within hours of harvest. 

Hydroponic gardening is the science of growing plants using only water and a sterile growing medium, like vermiculite. Since the plant is not reaping minerals and vitamins from soil a nutrient mixture is added to the water. Aeroponic farming is an offshoot of hydroponics, with this method there is no growing medium. The roots, suspended in a dark chamber, are frequently sprayed with a nutrient solution. 

Hydroponic gardening is not for everyone; startup costs are high and there is a real science to growing plants without soil. However, this method of farming is gaining popularity in countries where abundant water supplies are not available and the ground soil is parched. So, if an area doesn’t have a good water supply how does growing vegetables in water make sense? In a hydroponic farming system water is recycled. Only the water taken up by the roots is used, there is no wasted water seeping into the ground. This reduces water usage over soil gardening by a whopping 80 – 90%. Limited space is another scenario where hydroponic gardening is a great choice. In soil, plants grow large root systems to search for food and water, with hydroponics sustenance is fed directly to the roots. With smaller root systems the plants can be grown closer together, requiring only about 20% of the overall space necessary for traditional soil gardening. Also, because nutrients are supplied directly to the roots, plants grow much faster; for example, a head of lettuce takes only about 3 weeks to fully mature.

According to the Bidwell website Chef Mooney named his Roof to Table restaurant for General John Bidwell. Bidwell served in the US Army in the 1800’s and was the founder of Chico, California. An avid farmer, he developed the Bidwell heirloom melon, a gold medal winning flour, and California’s first commercial raisin crop. 

What a great concept that provides fresh vegetables and a fun experience!