John Hardin High School agriculture education students have launched Aquafood, a program that will provide opportunities to students who participate in all three agriculture career pathways offered there.
Aquafood was created out of what Agriculture instructor Jeremy Hall calls “a need to educate and empower students on the issue of food security as well as solutions.” JHHS agriculture students have discovered that one out of every five children in Hardin County experience food insecurity and one in seven adults.
“Aquafood will provide students with real-life experiences in the animal science, horticulture and agribusiness career pathways,” Hall said. “Aquafood will provide a healthy food source for them and our student body while addressing a community issue.”
Students will be growing hydroponic bibb lettuce and pea shoot microgreens using a NFT Hydroponic System located inside the school. Students will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the project such as planting, harvesting, marketing, processing, customer service, educational outreach and the building of partnerships. The JHHS cafeteria will purchase the produce and serve it - as mixed salads or in other products - to the JHHS student body as a fresher option.
The other part of the program is aquaponics. It is expected to arrive in January 2020. The two aquaponic systems, located in the school’s greenhouse, will raise additional lettuce crops, microgreens, watercress, peppers, tomatoes and tilapia fish. The tilapia will supply the nutrients for those crops in a self-sustaining closed-loop system.
Agriculture education students and FFA members will be offering workshops and tours of the project to local elementary school students, middle school students and members of the general public who are interested in these type systems. Students in every agriculture education class will serve in the Aquafood project in various capacities depending on the specific class.
“I am so proud of my students and their desire to make this happen,” Hall added. “They are so passionate about this issue and they felt like they needed to do something. This will be an amazing program that we hope will catch on and expand down the road.”