Local students learning hydroponics, improve future of SWFL water quality

A form of farming could have positive impacts on our water quality, positively impacting our livelihoods overall. A local teacher is educating our leaders of tomorrow to understand modern forms of agriculture that will address concerns now and in the future.

Students are outside of the classroom teaching other students this new age of farming — sustainability right in our backyard.

Joe Mallon is an agriculture teacher at Island Coast High School. His school offers the academy of natural resources, a class focused on sustainability. It started 13 years ago and. Now, Mallon is sharing what he knows with students at South Fort Myers High School.

“We literally started with a system just like this, literally just like this,” said. Mallon said.

South Fort Myers High School students are learning the art of hydroponics, farming without soil. Students were working with what looked like pots of soil, but it was really perlite and cocoa fiber.

“This type of farming, you have a whole lot more plants in a smaller area,” Mallon said. “You can control the water, so you can really conserve water at the same time. You can conserve all the nutrients going in, so you have no nutrient runoff.”

This is nutrient runoff that could cause algal blooms. One of the goals of this sustainable farming technique is to someday solve our water quality issues.

“If all farming went similar to this, I believe you could at least cut back on the nutrient load going into the ecosystems,” Mallon said. “I like seeing the things that we can do to help the environment, especially with what’s going on right now and the water quality.”

Students who have already been learning the way to hydroponic and sustainability are sharing their knowledge and couldn’t be happier.

“I honestly think it’s really fun,” Henderson said. “It’s good for kids to go outside and learn things about the environment, learn how to provide food for countless people, especially with the system that we have set up.”

The project moving forward looks to be strengthening, as students are taught skills that can be put to use in Southwest Florida for the betterment of our water quality and sustainability.

“You hear that all the time, ‘Oh, the students are the future,’” Mallon said. “But the reality is they really are.”

Reporter:Michelle Mackonochie
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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