Who: Microsoft and Mark Freeman, senior manager of Microsoft’s Global Dining Services.
What: Organic hydroponic urban
farming towers and microgreens
trays producing 15,000 pounds
of lettuces and 1,000 pounds of
Where: Microsoft’s campus in
When: Ongoing since 2013.
Why: Provides employees with
sustainable, responsible, locally
sourced and delicious food.
How: Under plasma, LED and
fluorescent lights, lettuce and
microgreens leaf out in more
than 70 hydroponic grow towers,
pyramids and urban microgreens
cultivators, all managed and
maintained remotely through the
Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform.
How Many: Started with one
urban farmer; seven farmers currently provide greens for a campus with 45,000 employees.
High-tech Indoor Agriculture
As a software company, Microsoft ap-plies technology to monitor the urban
farms from anywhere on campus. Using data from sensors installed on the
hydroponic units, for example, dining
services farming staff can measure pH,
water flow, humidity and nutrients. The
farmers also track light levels and plant
growth through video monitoring. A
concise, easy-to-use dashboard shows
each tower’s status, plant ages and
overall health. The entire hydroponic system can be managed from a
Your customers and bottom line
will thank you.
Your underperforming and
neglected parking facilities!
Industry leading customer service
Enhanced asset value
Don't just park. impark
Learn more at
single tablet, smartphone or desktop
computer because it’s all accessible
through the cloud and can be viewed
using easily programmed analytics
and business intelligence tools.
In addition to providing high-quality
produce to chefs and employees year
round, the program offers Microsoft
several other benefits. Growing pro-
duce close to the kitchen compresses
the farm-to-table distance from
many miles to a few feet. This yields
fresher, tastier food and eliminates
the environmental impacts of trucking
it in. Hydroponic systems also use
up to 90 percent less water than in-
ground farming, and the little water
they use is recycled throughout the
hydroponic growing cycle. Kitchen
staff also use less water preparing the
produce because there is no dirt or
pesticide to wash off.
One of the most interesting things
about this urban farming project is
how readily people at Microsoft got involved. The dining group started small
but quickly demonstrated the value
of what it was doing, which garnered
senior leadership support. Employees
continue to provide feedback, and
the company’s software developers
continue to innovate ways that cloud
technologies can support growing
food on-site. n
By Mark Freeman, senior manager, global