Microsoft's expansive Redmond, Washington campus is almost a city unto itself. Buses shuttle employees to and from work. Big parking garages accommodate those who drive. Wide open spaces for noon-hour soccer games. Busy dining halls that feed thousands.
And in one of those dining halls Caf 34 there's what the company calls a growing green revolution under way. It's an experiment in urban farming that includes lettuce thriving in hydroponic towers under plasma lights and microgreens being cultivated in a cooler next to an organic salad bar.
Jessica Schilke, urban farming specialist for Microsofts Dining and Beverage Services, says the fresh greens available in the salad bar are often the first to go. Not only that, the growing towers of green are the background for many a "selfie." And she notes one regular makes a point of sitting near the plants; telling her he feels energized by the lights.
The goal is sustainability
The greens are started from seed in another location and transplanted in the hydroponic units where they sit in nutrient-rich water until they are ready to be harvested.
Mark Freeman, senior program manager of Council Lead Partner Microsofts Dining and Beverage Services, says the idea is to be more thoughtful about the food served at the Redmond headquarters.
"People are concerned about whats in their food and where it comes from. We make buying choices based on that notion and work with farmers who are taking care of the Earth," Freeman explained in an article on the Microsoft News Center. "We see Microsoft as a city, and as we look at that city, we want to meet the needs of our citizens by offering a variety of healthy foods that help make our employees happy and productive."
The technology component
There's also an opportunity to mix their sustainability efforts with the technology innovation that Microsoft is all about. For instance, Schilke says people from the Xbox team provided the tip about using plasma lights rather than halogen or LEDs for better coloration and taste.
She says there are others who have talked about developing apps for the project.
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