Theodore Caplow

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Dr. Ted Caplow

Theodore "Ted" Caplow (born 1969) is an American social entrepreneur, environmental engineer, and inventor. He is a pioneer in the field of sustainable agriculture, having designed and developed both the Science Barge in Yonkers, NY and the Miami Science Barge, urban farming prototypes that address vegetable and fish production, respectively. Caplow has also patented a Vertically Integrated Greenhouse. As an academic, Caplow has published a series of peer-reviewed articles on water containment dynamics in the Hudson River Estuary. He has founded or co-founded five companies in the area of applied science and sustainable technology: NY Sun Works (2004), BrightFarms[1] (2008), Fish Navy Films (2010), CappSci (2014), and Grayscale Partners (2017). Caplow created Grayscale with frequent collaborator Nathalie Manzano to pursue design consulting and development opportunities in sustainable real estate, ecological technology, and long-term risk management.

Early life and education[edit]

Ted Caplow was born Theodore Caplow, Jr. in New York City in 1969 to Anne Christine Allen and Theodore Caplow. His father, also known as Ted Caplow, is a well-known American sociologist and author of over 20 books in the social sciences.[2]

Caplow grew up in central Virginia and attended boarding school in Massachusetts, where he was fascinated by the advent of the personal computer. He entered Harvard University intending to major in physics but graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1992. Following college, Caplow, together with his father and other family members, sailed a 47 foot boat from New York City to Cyprus, further stimulating his interest in nature, science, and engineering.

He received an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1998 from Princeton University, where his interest in renewable energy was fostered by Robert H. Socolow and Daniel Kammen and where he received a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Caplow’s thesis at Princeton was an extended design modeling and optimization project for a solar thermal “power tower” that explored the feasibility of employing gas turbines in these designs. Caplow completed his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering in 2004 at Columbia University, where he was influenced by Peter Schlosser, Vijay Modi, Klaus Lackner, and Upmanu Lall, among others. Caplow’s dissertation concerned the hydrodynamics of contaminant transport in the Hudson River Estuary and his scholarly work in this field has appeared in Environmental Science & Technology,[3][4][5] the Journal of Environmental Engineering[6] and Acta Horticulturae.[7]

Contributions to Sustainable Technology[edit]

Inventors at Frost Science[edit]

Caplow conceived and, together with Nathalie Manzano, developed Inventors-in-Residence, a science prize competition and residency program which debuted in 2017 at the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami FL. The program chooses winning early-stage technological innovations that have both a local relevance, and a global significance in their potential impact. The first of its kind in the nation, the inaugural pair of Inventors will each receive a $100,000 grant to support a 12-month residency at the museum to build-out and test their early stage technology. The first pair of winning technologies focus on coral reef restoration and airborne carcinogen detection, respectively.[8] The winning scientific teams work in public-facing labs and interact with museum guests, discussing why their work matters, what kind of progress they’ve made, and what hurdles lie ahead.[9]

Science Barge[edit]

Caplow is perhaps best known for conceiving and developing the Science Barge urban farm in 2006.[10] The Science Barge functions as both an experimental platform for closed-loop high-efficiency food production using renewable energy and an educational tool to improve opportunities for hands-on “experiential” STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning for inner city students. In 2009, the Science Barge was named "Best Class Trip" by New York Magazine.[11] Caplow conceived of the project, raised and contributed funding, determined which systems to include on the barge, and drew the initial plans. Execution of the design and various details of the greenhouse, water recovery, and solar/wind power systems were completed by the entire team at NY Sun Works. After being stationed in Hudson River Park from 2006 to 2008, the Science Barge moved to Yonkers, NY where it continues to host educational tours for school children during the week and is open for public visitation on the weekends. Over the years, the Science Barge has received a significant amount of national and international press including articles from National Geographic[12] and the New York Times.[13][14]

In March 2015, a team led by Nathalie Manzano and including Caplow won the inaugural Knight Cities Challenge from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with a proposal to build a Miami Science Barge in downtown Miami, FL. It launched in April 2016. Similar to the Science Barge in NY, it is off grid and has a focus on sustainability. The Miami Science Barge though, also concentrates on marine ecology and conservation in Biscayne Bay, and emphasized clean aquaculture for the domestic production of seafood.

Vertically Integrated Greenhouse[edit]

Caplow invented the Vertically Integrated Greenhouse (VIG) with Zakery Ward Adams. The invention is listed as Patent US20090307973 and was published in December 2009.[15] The VIG consists of vertically stacked plant trays that can be moved to maximize plant light capture and shade as necessary. In addition to the trays and suspension system, the VIG system includes a water distribution system which consists of a reservoir, a pump, and a water supply tube for growing plants hydroponically. The reservoir holds excess water for recirculation making the system a closed-loop. According to the patent abstract, “the design is particularly well-suited for installation in a double-skin façade of a building, or in an interior atrium, lobby, or similar structure.” Caplow and Adams built and installed prototypes of the VIG on the Science Barge (2008), at PS 333 in Manhattan (2010),[16] and at PS 89 in Brooklyn (2011),[17] and Caplow built an improved VIG at the Miami Museum of Science (2012).[18] The next VIG is slated for PS 84 in Brooklyn, NY (2015).


Caplow has also assisted in the design of many sustainable greenhouse projects, including the Sun Works Center at PS 333, the first full-scale rooftop greenhouse completed as part of a NY Sun Works campaign to build 100 school greenhouses in New York City between 2010 and 2020. From 2008 to 2011, through design consultancy BrightFarm Systems, he contributed to the design of a 10,000 sq ft. greenhouse built on top of the Forest Houses apartment complex in South Bronx, NY,[19] an in-store hydroponic greenhouse constructed at Whole Foods Market in Millburn, NJ,[20] and a rooftop greenhouse at P.S. 89 in Brooklyn, NY. Many other design studies in Building-integrated Agriculture (a term Caplow coined in 2007) were executed for clients around the world, although many of these remain unbuilt due to downturns in the global real estate market. Prominent architectural and engineering firms who collaborated on design studies with BrightFarms while Caplow led the firm include Kiss + Cathcart, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Grimshaw, Foster & Co, and Arup, among others.

In 2011 Caplow partnered with Paul Lightfoot to reformulate BrightFarms Systems as a full service commercial farming company named BrightFarms. Growing vegetables under long term contract to supermarket clients, BrightFarms designs, finances, builds, owns, and operates greenhouses as large as three acres, nationwide. The company has raised over $50 million in capital as of early 2018 and operates greenhouses in four states.

Work on Child Mortality[edit]

The Children’s Prize[edit]

In 2011, Caplow and former New York City Ballet dancer Pascale van Kipnis Caplow founded the Whole New World Foundation. In 2013, the foundation launched its first iteration of the Children’s Prize. The Children’s Prize aims to save the lives of children under age 5 anywhere in the world and has been covered by the media, e.g. CNN[21] and Humanosphere.[22] Over 550 applications from 70 countries were received in the novel, openly accessible format of the prize. Dr. Anita Zaidi was announced the winner of the 2013 Children’s Prize on December 10, 2013 for her program in Rehri Goth, Pakistan.[23] The Children’s Prize launched its fifth iteration in 2017.

Film and Video[edit]

As part of his company Fish Navy Films, Ted Caplow has written, produced, edited, narrated and appeared in a series of documentary films on sustainable seafood. Films produced by Fish Navy Films include Two Fish (2012), Fish Meat (2012),[24] Raising Shrimp (2013),[25] and What We Fish For (2015).[26] Caplow’s primary scientific collaborator in all three films has been fish ecologist Andy J. Danylchuk.

Awards and Recognitions[edit]

Award Awarding Institution Year
Guggenheim Fellowship Princeton University 1996-1997
Graduate Energy Fellowship Link Foundation 1997-1998
Graduate Research Fellowship National Science Foundation 1998 (award), 2001-2003 (activated)
Presidential Fellowship Columbia University, School of Engineering and Applied Science 2001-2004
Cui Servire Award Groton School 2008
Social Entrepreneur of the Year Casimiro Global Foundation 2013


  1. ^ BrightFarms
  2. ^ "Works authored by Theodore Caplow". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  3. ^ "Transport Dynamics in a Sheltered Estuary and Connecting Tidal Straits: SF6 Tracer Study in New York Harbor. Theodore Caplow,*,†, Peter Schlosser,†,‡,§, David T. Ho,‡,§ and Nicholas Santella‡,§. Environmental Science & Technology. 2003 37 (22), 5116-5126". American Chemical Society (ACS). doi:10.1021/es034198+. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "Determination of Longitudinal Dispersion Coefficient and Net Advection in the Tidal Hudson River with a Large-Scale, High Resolution SF6 Tracer Release Experiment. David T. Ho,*,†, Peter Schlosser,†,‡,§, and Theodore Caplow‡ Environmental Science & Technology. 2002 36 (15), 3234-3241". American Chemical Society (ACS). doi:10.1021/es015814+. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Caplow, Theodore; Schlosser, Peter; Ho, David T.; Enriquez, Rica C. (2004). "Effect of Tides on Solute Flushing from a Strait: Imaging Flow and Transport in the East River with SF6. Theodore Caplow,*,†, Peter Schlosser,†,‡,§, David T. Ho,‡,§, and Rica C. Enriquez. Environmental Science & Technology. 2004 38 (17), 4562-4571". Environmental Science & Technology. 38 (17): 4562–4571. doi:10.1021/es035248d.
  6. ^ Ho, David T.; Schlosser, Peter; Houghton, Robert W.; Caplow, Ted (2006). "Ho, D., Schlosser, P., Houghton, R., and Caplow, T. (2006). "Comparison of SF6 and Fluorescein as Tracers for Measuring Transport Processes in a Large Tidal River." J. Environ. Eng., 132(12), 1664–1669". Journal of Environmental Engineering. 132 (12): 1664–1669. CiteSeerX doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9372(2006)132:12(1664).
  7. ^ "Nelkin, J. and Caplow, T. 2008. SUSTAINABLE CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE FOR URBAN AREAS. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 801:449-456". Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  8. ^ CappSci Inventors program awards inaugural prizes.
  9. ^ $1 million innovation prize program coming to Frost Museum of Science.
  10. ^ "A Visionary Farmer Sees Greenhouses Everywhere, From Rivers To Rooftops To Skyscrapers". Co.Exist. 2012-05-02. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  11. ^ "New York Magazine Best Class Trip 2009: The Science Barge". New York Magazine. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Floating Food,New York". National Geographic. 2012-07-26. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  13. ^ Charkes, Juli S. (2008-11-21). "Soil-Free Farming, as Practiced on Board". New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  14. ^ "Science Barge Drops Anchor". New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  15. ^ "Patent US8151518 - Vertically integrated greenhouse". Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  16. ^ "NY Sun Works". PS 333 MANHATTAN SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN. Archived from the original on 3 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  17. ^ "New York Sun Works: PS89 Cypress Hills Community School". Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  18. ^ "Hydroponics: Growing Plants without Soil". Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  19. ^ "BrightFarm Systems Designs World's First Sustainable Rooftop Greenhouse Integrated On An Affordable Housing Development, South Bronx, NY". PitchEngine. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  20. ^ "BrightFarm Systems develops futuristic urban agriculture projects". Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  21. ^ "How many children can $1 million save?". CNN. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  22. ^ "Can better data save 7 million children from dying each year?". Humanosphere. 2014-07-11. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  23. ^ Jr, Donald G. Mcneil (2013-12-30). "Prize for Pakistani Pediatrician". New York Times. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  24. ^ "'Fish Meat' Documentary Screens at Festival on Jan. 14". NewsWise. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  25. ^ "'Raising Shrimp' a Finalist in Blue Ocean Film Festival". NewsWise. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  26. ^ Film Review: 'What We Fish For' A look inside Andy Danylchuk and Ted Caplow's latest documentary