A green way to grow

Group producing hydroponic systems with recycled materials; aims to benefit remote communities with fresh produce

Louis Power lpower@thetelegram.com
Published on November 22, 2015

Volunteers in St. John’s are working to make locally grown produce a year-round reality for residents of Northern Labrador — and for anyone else who wants it..

Building simple hydroponic systems for growing produce is one of 13 of Enactus Memorial’s active projects, and the group is looking to shine a little LED light on it this week.

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“We’ve created a hydroponic system that’s made out of recycled material and costs a little bit less than $100, everything included, and it allows people to grow their own produce,” said Enactus MUN president Emily Bland.

Bland leads a team of 72 volunteers, about 30 of whom are working on this project.

“Our main focus is to put it up in Northern Labrador. By getting five to six community members together, they’ll take the hydroponics systems, they’ll grow produce and sell it to their local convenience stores, and then the whole community has access to fresh produce.”

The university’s engineering faculty has teamed up with Enactus to make the systems, which are comprised of storage containers, recycled plastic bags, fish pumps, pH pumps and LED lights. Each one uses about 70-100 plastic bags. The group is hoping to make some smaller, beef bucket-sized systems, but is focusing on the larger ones for now.

“Usually one of those systems, in four to six weeks it’ll pop out anywhere between 20 and 40 produce, depending on if it’s carrots or bell peppers, cucumbers — whatever it is that you happen to grow,” she said.

Bland said the system is especially efficient in growing leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and herbs. All you need to do is add some water and nutrient, plug it in, turn on the light and let it do its thing, checking the pH level every day or two.

Then you eat.

She said the technology has been around the better part of a century, and considering that it uses less water and has a higher yield for crops, it’s surprising that such systems aren’t already widely used.

“There’s so many stats about not having enough produce, or it being too expensive, not affordable. And then in Labrador, if a plane gets cancelled one day everything’s spoiled,” she said.

Enactus Memorial has been in touch with businesses and individuals in several communities about the systems, including six people in Rigolet who will be taking on one or two systems each. Bland said the group will continue producing them, selling them at cost, and anyone interested in getting one can contact her at ejb360@mun.ca.

 

Showcasing projects

Tuesday night Enactus MUN will showcase this initiative, along with five others, to partners, supporters and the public.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to get individuals who want to make a difference in their community, and they’re looking for the group that can get it done or they’re looking for someone to partner with, or people who just want to see what projects are going on in the community,” she said.

The event takes place from 6-8 p.m. in the atrium of MUN’s business and administration building.

 

 

Fast fact

The United Nations estimates Earth will be home to 9.6 billion humans in 2050, and says that means the world will need to produce 70 per cent more food to feed everyone (measured by calories).