As the nomadic Aztecs of the fifteenth century were denied any arable land, they created raft gardens called “chinampas.” They built with rushes and reeds, lashed the stalks together with roots. As they were driven into the marshy shore of Lake Tenochititlan, they dredged up rich soil from the lake bottom spreading it upon the raft. The roots of flowers, vegetables and trees would push down through the floor of the raft into the water below.
These rafts, often featuring a small hut for a resident gardener, were poled to the marketplace providing shoppers with flowers and vegetables that were the freshest of the fresh. At other times rafts were joined together to form floating farms. Spaniards exploring the New World in search of gold were astonished by an entire grove of trees suspended on the water near what is now Mexico City. The Aztecs gambled in a heroic effort to survive, as providers they adapted to keep pace with the food demands of Central Mexico. These “Wondering Islands of Verdure” remained in use until well into the nineteenth century.
The heroic and pioneering spirit demonstrated by the people of Central Mexico contributed greatly to the family of modern agricultural techniques known as hydroponics. Ascension University is now in the process of developing courses that survey these and other techniques within the context of Modular Agriculture.