CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Growing crops just got a whole lot easier for Holy Cross School in Champaign, after a family’s donation gained them a second aquaponics tower.
The towers allow students to grow food inside before taking it home to eat. The first aquaponics tower, which the school got last year, was a trial to solve problems while encouraging other schools to adopt the same method.
“You know, when I heard about it, I thought, this is so exciting because it’s important that the children in grade school are exposed to science,” said Janice Bahr, University of Illinois faculty member. “We need scientists, but that interest needs to be nurtured, developed in grade school.”
It starts with feeding fish.
“The plants need water. The world needs water. There has to be fertilizer in the water. And the best fertilizer can come from just natural sources, like from the fish,” Bahr said. “And so that water from the fish circulates through here. That provides the nitrogen for these plants.”
Bahr said she had to visit the school when she heard about the first tower. When she saw it, she was thrilled — and had hundreds of questions.
“About the lighting, the temperature, the quality of the water type of plants, et cetera. So then I became the scientific advisor for this,” she said.
School officials say it’s the only vertical aquaponics tower in the state. Students like Zora Unger have been using the towers by growing food everyday for school lunches.
“Instead of like trucks, like bringing the food to our school and using gas and polluting our earth, they don’t have to package it with plastic. It can just come straight from here to the kitchen,” Unger said.
But it doesn’t stop there. Students are also giving back to the community. It’s something they say is rewarding to be apart of, and something that helps others.
“We give to those in need, such as the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen and other food banks in our local area,” said student McKenna Tucker.
Those interested in checking out the towers can contact Holy Cross School for a tour.