The effort began with students building the wooden frame, whichh sits on cinderblocks in a corner of their science lab. They also cut and prepared the three plastic barrels that now house more than a dozen bass, assorted vegetables planted amid small chunks of expanded shale, and a fountain pump.
“It’s a replica of the prototype we have in our facility,” said Self, who previously worked at Seedleaf and has assisted the school’s Generation Green club with other projects. “It’s doable by anybody who takes an interest in it.”
The 55-gallon blue barrels are repurposed, the shale came from a local landscaping company, and the PVC pipe, shop lighting and other materials were easy to find and affordable. In the next month or so, FoodChain will start on a larger, almost commercial-scale model for demonstration purposes. Meanwhile, the Tates Creek students will continue to collect data and maintain their system for the rest of the school year.
Self, a former classroom science teacher, will return periodically to check on the progress.
“Several times throughout the school year, we’ll harvest the plants, enjoy salads together and likely try some new foods together. And then, near the end of the year, the fish will be large enough for harvest. Our plan is to have a meal together celebrating the success of the system and collecting recommendations for how to improve things for the next cycle,” she said. “We fully expect that these students will naturally rise up to become teachers and mentors to the next year’s participants.”