CSU dining serving local aquaponics produce

Oct. 24—The newest thing on the menu at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, is locally grown aquaponic produce at the salad bar, according to a university press release.

The department began purchasing the produce earlier this month from a small aquaponics business, located in nearby LaPorte, Colo. Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponic and aquaculture growing techniques, where water is recirculated from tilapia fish tanks to hydro beds that grow lettuce and herbs. The plants receive nutrient-rich water, courtesy of the fish tanks. As the plants are fed they provide a bio-filter that removes 97% of the minerals from the water, which allows fresh water to be returned to the fish tanks. Beneficial bacteria provide a natural fertilizer for the plants. This system to able to grow a head of lettuce in eight weeks, regardless of the time of year, the press release said.

The company CSU is purchasing the produce from, Quatrix, operates the full growing cycle in a greenhouse for plants and an adjacent greenhouse for the fish tanks, where the tilapia are raised. The system reduces pest issues and allows the company to grow produce all year, which helps CSU continue to buy locally during the winter. Deon Lategan, director of residential dining, says the department was contacted by the company and then visited the location to get a sense of how the system worked.

"We were thrilled to have such a wonderful resource so close to campus," Lategan says. "Leaving there, I could not stop thinking about what a great idea it was and wanted to be part of it. Living in Colorado, we don't have many opportunities like this where we can buy great sustainable produce year-round produced locally in such an environmentally friedly manner. Once we were able to negotiate the details and reach an agreement, we took a number of our staff out to tour the facility. We wanted to get them enthusiastic about the prospect of getting local, sustainable produce, which would require additional labor to wash and spin the product dry, as opposed to buying it that way. We had enthusiastic buy in from our staff."

Dining initially plans to purchase nine or 10 cases of leaf lettuce, romaine and basil per week. The release stated that plans are in the works for the department to expand purchases in the future, as well as to look into purchasing the tilapia fish.

"We are currently using Lolla Rosa red leaf, Green Oakleaf and romaine lettuces and fresh basil," Lategan says. "[The lettuces] have wonderful tender buttery texture with a great fresh taste. We are considering adding additional products as they are growing to meet our demand. As they prove they can meet our demand, we will continue to grow that segment of our business. It is a win-win for us to have access to such a great sustainable product and to be able to spend our resources locally and support our community"

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

Menu Development
sweet pea ravioli

On any given night at the Wake Robin senior living facility in Shelburne, Vt., residents may find spring sweet pea and mascarpone ravioli with white wine cream sauce or acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries on the menu. These dishes, along with a new sweet-potato burger topped with cilantro aioli, aren’t just delicious, says Director of Dining Services Kathy King. They’re also completely vegetarian.

The popularity of Meatless Mondays and the growing number of people who call themselves “flexitarians” have impacted menu development in every noncommercial sector. Although...

Managing Your Business
umass amherst food

Restaurateurs in Amherst, Mass., aren’t happy with UMass Dining .

Registered dietitian Dianne Sutherland told local NBC affiliate WWLP News in May that the high quality of food served on campus means students aren’t visiting neighborhood eateries as frequently as those businesses might like.

“Even our vendors who we work with, they get complaints from the restaurants that students are staying on campus,” she said. “They are already paying for the food; why should they [go] off campus to eat?” More than 19,000 Amherst students are on a meal plan—6,000 of whom live off campus...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

FSD Resources