Lucy Gill, a Grade 7 Don Ross Middle School student, bends over the rows of young kale plants growing in the school’s new aquaponics system.
Satisfied with the health of the kale leaves, 12-year-old Gill moves on with the confidence of a gardener twice her age to check on water flowing to the plants.
“I think it is really fun, really cool,” she said of tending to the three-tiered aquaponics system set up off of the school’s art classroom.
“I have never gotten a chance to do something like this before... I come down here with my friends every day.”
Gill and her classmates test the ammonia, nitrate and pH levels within the system.
“I have always loved science and this was a great chance to try it,” Gill said, gesturing to the vials and small, colourful bottles of the test kit sitting on the counter.
The $4,000 aquaponics system was recently built for the school by Squamish’s Jonathan Luckhurst, from Sea to Sky Aquaponics, with funding from Squamish CAN and help from the Don Ross parent advisory committee.
Simply stated, aquaponics is a sustainable form of food production using fish bacteria and plants.
“You are essentially creating an ecosystem to raise fish and grow plants year-round,” Luckhurst said.
According to Squamish CAN, aquaponic systems conserve 90 per cent of the water.
“The water just continues to circulate, so you are only losing water due to evaporation and uptake from plants,” Luckhurst said.
Leafy greens and herbs grow best in the system but tomatoes and cucumbers can thrive as well, Luckhurst said.
The systems can grow plants anywhere a power source exists, such as in Canada’s north, he added.
Home or school-sized systems are relatively low maintenance, requiring about 15 minutes of attention a day.
No gardening experience is needed to get started, said Luckhurst, who guides classes and his customers through the set up process and how to maintain it.
“I built the first prototype version of this design for my dad in Edmonton,” he said. “He didn’t know anything and I basically coached him on how to run it. He has been doing a fantastic job.”
Luckhurst will be running an evening workshop on how to build a home aquaponics system on Wednesday, Nov. 16 at Don Ross.
He will teach participants how to build their own system by constructing one in the class.
Proceeds from the workshop will go toward maintenance costs of the system at Don Ross.
For more information on the workshop go to www.seatoskyaquaponics.ca or check out the Facebook event page: Aquaponic System Construction – how to build a home system.