by Grant Wright
Back in high school I was having a lot of trouble in the regular scholastic environment so my parents sent me off to an alternative high school called Iowa Big. This school was based on project based learning and had multiple community projects that covered core subjects for learning.
I told the teachers my interests and the science teacher introduced me to their aquaponics project, which was partnered with a local non-profit to provide natural grown fresh food for veterans and homeless people.
However, what I was brought to by the previous years teams were large goldfish in a 55 gallon barrel and a sheet of foam in some water, no plants, or any real place to start other than the system being "present". This is called a stagnant water bed and has some benefits such as heat, and holding on to nutrients longer. However it caused more problems than it fixed so at the end of the year we tore it out.
As I started working more and more on this project it started to become like my child and I found myself there everyday, whether I had class or not to check on my little growers. I was spending extra time to do research and rebuild our system so that it could be efficient as possible. We grew mostly lettuce and leafy foods like kale and cabbage, however as we were testing more plants we ended up growing microgreens and even cherry tomatoes! The fish sadly ended up being pulled out of the project and we switched to a hydroponic system due to the weather conditions in my hometown.
Then my senior year I eventually rebuilt the entire system with my team and we upped the efficiency of plants produced by around 500%! The food was donated to a local salad shop and the Feed Iowa First Non-Profit. This started my love of plants and I still cherish every minute with that container and project.
Grant is 20 years old and an environmental science major starting Junior year at Carthage College.