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Fish and veggies growing in Canton’s new aquaponic systems

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CANTON - Fish are swimming and vegetables are growing inside two new aquaponic systems installed at Canton Central’s Hugh C. Williams High School.

The systems were set up by members of Carol K. Wright’s power and mechanics class and are being maintained by students enrolled in her basic agriculture and agriculture science classes.

Purchased through a $10,000 grant awarded to the district, the systems demonstrate how a self-contained network of tubing circulates nutrient-rich water.

Roughly 300 tilapia fish are being raised in two large tanks, one inside Mrs. Wright’s shop room and one inside the school’s greenhouse. The systems started running in February.

Through gravity-fed tubing and a pump, the water from the fish tanks is circulated to large growing beds where lettuce and bean seeds were planted in plastic containers surrounded by porous gravel.

Essentially, the waste deposited by the fish provide nutrient-rich water that gets circulated to the plants.

“We only have to replenish a small amount of water that gets lost to evaporation,” Mrs. Wright explained. “It’s a self-contained system which means you don’t have to worry about water pollution or contamination like you would in a traditional gardens.”

Goals include serving the vegetables in the district’s cafeterias and possibly selling the tilapia to an area restaurant when they reach full size, a process that takes abut two years.

“It’s a different way to introduce agriculture,” Mrs. Wright said. “It’s also another opportunity to provide fresh vegetables to the cafeteria.”

Several elementary students have toured the agriculture classroom to observe how the water circulation system and the growth cycle works.

Emma M. Jayne, a high school senior in Mrs. Wright’s basic agriculture class, said she has worked with plants since she was a small child and has enjoyed learning about the aquaponics system.

“My mom worked in a greenhouse and I enjoyed helping out,” Miss Jayne said.

Abby R. Drake, 15, said she is also interested in agriculture.

“I like doing a lot of hands-on things, working with flower beds and vegetables,” she said.

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