A Texas State student organization is building self-sufficient growing beds to help local high schools.
Entrepreneurial Action Us, or Enactus, builds and sells aquaponic systems to high schools as a part of its “Project Growth” undertaking. The outreach project assembles the aquaponics systems, which sustainably grow produce and raise fish. The group, formerly known as Students in Free Enterprise, sells the aquaponic systems to high school horticultural programs for $250 to use as learning tools.
Greg Souquette, member of Texas State Enactus’ executive committee, said one reason the project is so important is the amount of water the aquaponics systems conserve compared to traditional methods.
“You use so much less water with these because you use the same water over and over again,” Souquette said.
The systems are being built out of intermediate bulk containers, which are typically used to transport large amounts of water, Souquette said. The top third of the container is cut off and placed upside down on top of the remaining two-thirds of the container, creating the growing bed. Under the growing bed, the container is filled with water, housing fish. The water is pumped to the top, then it drips onto the plants in the growing bed and sinks back into the fish tank.
Kinnon Martin, a recent Texas State graduate, said he originally conceived the idea for the project. After coming up with the idea, Martin had his team do some research on aquaponics and had a prototype built. When Martin graduated with his MBA in fall 2012, he passed on the idea to Soquette and other members.
“At the time I was a senior (vice president) on the executive committee,” said Martin. “I was looking for a new project idea. I’m the idea guy. But (Souquette) really has done all the leg work on it.”
The project stemmed from working with Gonzalo Garza Independence High School in Austin, Souquette said.
“They have a horticulture class, and they grow produce to sell at farmers markets in order to generate funds for the class,” Souquette said. “We stepped in and are teaching them some business principles and finding ways to increase the revenue.”
Souquette said Texas State Enactus has been working with the high school for several years. The high school now has 33 aquaponics systems, Souquette said.
For every system sold, Enactus donates an aquaponic system to wherever the purchaser desires, Souquette said.
Marketing senior Oscar Martinez, a member of Texas State Enactus, sold one of the systems to a small high school near Corpus Christi.
“I figured if I sold it to them it would keep the kids involved,” Martinez said. “They would look forward to going to that specific class.”
Martinez said anything from tomatoes to herbs to melons can be grown in one of the aquaponics systems, and many kinds of fish can be raised in them.
“The only limitation you have is that you can’t seed the plant in there,” Souquette said. “The plant has to already be rooted.”