Henderson County High received a $10,000 grant from the America’s Grow Rural Education Program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, which they used to build an aquaponics system in their greenhouse.
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. It is a closed-loop system where fish produce waste which is converted into plant fertilizer by bacteria which the plants being grown hydroponically use for growth, thus filtering the water for the fish.
At Henderson County High, the students are responsible for taking care of the plants and fish in the aquaponics system. Many of the students prefer taking care of the aquaponics system to other work in the greenhouse. A student at HCHS, Tra Duckworth, said in regard to maintaining the aquaponics system that “it’s better than putting plants in dirt.”
The aquaponics system in the HCHS greenhouse currently has 60 tilapia babies in the fish tank. Henderson County High plans to harvest these fish once they reach maturity, about 1 foot in length, to serve alongside the lettuce grown in the system at a Farm to Table event. Through this event they hope to advocate for aquaponics agriculture.
In addition to the aquaponics system, HCHS has a hydroponic system in their greenhouse. Hydroponic systems operate very similarly to aquaponics systems. The only difference between the two is processes is the source of fertilizer. Hydroponics systems use a liquefied solution of inorganic elements to fertilize the plants compared to using fish waste.