Cincinnati Zoo Launches “Farm to Stable” Container Farming Project

Posted April 19, 2024

Sustainably grown lettuce and kale are now being harvested and fed on same day 

CINCINNATI, OH (April 18, 2024) — Herbivores at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are now enjoying fresh produce grown on-site in shipping containers outfitted with hydroponic growing systems. The Zoo’s new container farming system will produce hundreds of pounds of produce each week that will be fed to animals as soon as it’s harvested. 

Video | photos 

“We get acres of growing space in each of our two containers and don’t have to worry about the weather’s effect on crops,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s vice president of facilities and sustainability, Mark Fisher.  “This gives us a year-round, sustainable source of high-quality food that we can pick and serve immediately.  This farm-to-stable set up maximizes freshness and eliminates carbon emissions generated by transporting food long distances.” 

Other environmental benefits include a reduction in Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from crop cultivation, fertilizer application, and manure management associated with traditional farming. The hydroponic farming method uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow plants, so fertilizer and pesticides are not necessary.

farm chart

“Right now, we’re growing romaine lettuce to supplement the Zoo’s giraffe feed program and kale for the manatees,” said Fisher.  “Surplus produce may be distributed to other animals.” 

The Zoo also grows food for animal diets at its farm in Warren County, Ohio. Over the past few years, all its hay needs have been met by Bowyer Farm harvests. Its Feed the Zoo program also encourages local organizations to donate food, from an approved list of items, for the animals to eat.  Pick up and food delivery typically happen the same day. 

“Ultimately, our goal is to be Net Zero water, energy, and waste,” said Fisher.  “These sustainable farming initiatives will help us achieve that and, we hope, will inspire others to do the same.” 

To learn more about what the Greenest Zoo in America is doing to minimize negative environmental impact, click here or schedule a sustainability tour. 

   The Zoo opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. daily.  Members get Early Entry and are welcome to enter the Zoo at 9 a.m. Memberships are on sale now, so join the Zoo at a discounted price and enjoy all the perks.    

DID YOU KNOW…. You pay more than $10 less per ticket, on select days, when you purchase tickets online!  That’s a $40 savings for a family of 4!

giraffe with lettuce