MEXICO – Select students at the Center for Instruction, Technology and Innovation will soon be able to enjoy a tilapia and herbs entrée with a fresh salad for dinner, thanks to a new hydroponics program.
From seed planting to germination and vegetative growth, lettuce has been produced in rafts of a Home Food Production system that is fed by tilapia in a 100-gallon fish tank.
With that system, fish waste will go to different tanks and into growing rafts where it becomes food for lettuce.
A filtration system cleans the water and circulates it back to the fish tank.
Teacher Kelly Culligan Pangman said the fish are fed once per day so they are hyper-aware of when they need to eat.
The hydroponics program is operated by students in Project Explore, an Alternative Education component at CiTi.
Student Chelsea Thurston (Oswego High School) said her favorite part has been the hydroponics system where she has helped plant seeds that have germinated and blossomed into seedlings of tomato, bean, lettuce and other plants.
With the hydroponics system, seedlings are housed in small cups with tiny clay balls that help them grow upright. In the soil-less system, Culligan Pangman said, a seedling’s exposed roots are always soaking in the nutrient-rich water, which flows through growing trays.
Additional light sources over the hydroponics system and the fish-based system will help the fruits and vegetables grow, Culligan Pangman said.
All items will be harvested in the spring when the Project Explore students will collaborate with students in CiTi’s Career and Technical Education Culinary Arts program so they can prepare a dinner with fresh ingredients.
Culligan Pangman said hydroponics program plan is to grow thyme, basil and chives for the culinary program before the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
She thanked Project Explore teaching assistant Carolyn Deary-Petrocci, whose background is in horticulture, for helping feed the fish and offering her support.
Thurston said she had been so motivated by the class that she planted her own sunflower seeds at home.