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Grant helps students expand garden

Kim Kuemper, project funding researcher, left, and Lauren Mitchell, project leader, check out the water pumping and collection system for Wellington Secondary School’s green wall garden. - Chris Bush photo
Kim Kuemper, project funding researcher, left, and Lauren Mitchell, project leader, check out the water pumping and collection system for Wellington Secondary School’s green wall garden.
— image credit: Chris Bush photo

A vertical farming and fish growing project at Wellington Secondary School is expanding.

Students recently learned the school will receive about $2,700 through World Wildlife Federation Canada’s Green Community School Grants program to add more green wall space and another fish tank to the school’s already blossoming project in its inner courtyard.

Students started researching green walls – walls covered with vegetation – two years ago and last year, the idea expanded to include an aquaponics system attached to the green wall.

Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines growing fish with growing vegetables. The aquaponics system uses less energy and water than growing plants the traditional way and the fish waste feeds the plants. The green wall acts as a natural insulator, cutting heating and cooling costs, and uses space more efficiently by growing vertically instead of horizontally.

This fall, after spending a year fundraising, students got the system up and running with one three-metre-long green wall filled with local plants, and a horizontal tray of strawberry plants, all attached to a tank the students hope to fill with fish soon.

The money from the federation’s grant program, provided by Loblaw Companies Ltd., will buy another fish tank, two walls and horizontal tray so that the operation can supply food to the school’s cafeteria program, said Grade 12 student Kim Kuemper, one of about six students looking after the project this year.

“If we can supply them with some food, it will make the program even more affordable for students,” she said.

Eventually, students hope to cover all eight walls in the inner courtyard with green walls, said Kuemper.

“We want to make it into a place for students to go out and enjoy themselves, enjoy nature,” she said, adding the hope is that more students get interested in environmental issues after seeing the project.

“We want to encourage vertical farming,” said Kuemper. “We want to set an example. At the same time, it creates an opportunity for students to get involved and get credit for that.”

She said the goal is to install the new pieces of equipment by the end of the school year and then have the new system running, with plants and fish, by next December.

In the tanks, students hope to raise local salmon and trout for reintroduction into local streams, she added.

For more information about the program, please go to www.wwf.ca/takeac

tion/greengrants.

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