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Airport Aeroponics: O’Hare’s unique garden brings nature to the terminal

Posted by Kevin Land on


Flying sucks. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to affordably travel anywhere on earth in a matter of hours is not something to be taken for granted, but if you’ve flown anywhere in the last 10 years, I think you’ll agree that the novelty has worn off. And while arriving in Paris for a family vacation or Las Vegas for a crazy weekend is great fun, actually flying there is a pain. If you’re lucky though, you’ll have a layover in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and be able to see their Aeroponic Vertical Garden.

The first of it’s kind, O’Hare’s ‘Airport Aeroponics’ was introduced in 2011, and includes “26 towers that house over 1,100 planting spots.” It’s installed in the mezzanine of the Rotunda Building in Terminal 3 so go check it out if you’re there. The unique garden is more than just a pretty and practical attraction, the garden represents a recognition of the importance of sustainability.

Aeroponics is the most technologically advanced for of agriculture to date, and the future of mass farming. Like other forms of soilless agriculture, aeroponic systems can grow plants without land, using recycled nutrients and water. The method can grow healthier plants in greater quantities and in less time while using 90% less resources (water, energy, space) than traditional, in-soil farming.

The garden grows 19 different species of plants including Sweet Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Oregano, even Habanero Peppers. The Garden is harvested by airport facility and used in some of the restaurants on-site like Tortas Frontera and Tuscany Cafe. We can’t think of a better way to combat historically bad airport food than to use ingredients fresh grown from down the hall.

And if the Aeroponic garden wasn’t enough, O’Hare also features numerous other sustainable and environmental practices including an apiary with over a million bees producing honey and a herd of grazing cattle that maintain surrounding landscape.

Airports are infamous for their negative effects on the environment, be it the displacement of ecosystems, to noise pollution to the carbon output of jet fuel. But not content with being part of the problem, O’Hare Airport is becoming part of the solution by implementing sustainable practices like aeroponic gardens. And O’Hare isn’t alone, the UK’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports have begun their own sustainability initiatives as a measure to mitigate air traffic’s damage to the environment. Perhaps they too will soon implement their own aeroponic gardens.


  • Kevin Land, Team ADI

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