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‘Sprouting’ solutions

Master's research at Grenfell Campus addressing N.L. food security


By Chad Pelley

A Grenfell Campus master’s student is “sprouting” plans to give Newfoundlanders and Labradorians year-round access to fresh veggies, right in their own kitchens.

According to Food First NL, this province has fewer farms than any Canadian province.

Eighty-four per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador communities do not have a grocery store from which to buy produce.

Overall, residents have only a two- or three-day supply of fresh produce if ferries are delayed by weather. Climate change and the province’s short growing season make these matters worse.

As part of her master’s program in boreal ecosystems and agricultural sciences, Elham Fathidarehnijeh designed a household hydroponic system she says can help alleviate these kinds of food security issues.

New technologies, old problems

Hydroponics is the practice of cultivating plants in a soil-less nutrient solution under controlled conditions.

What makes Ms. Fathidarehnijeh’s creation unique is that it is a space-efficient household hydroponic system.

Its vertical design makes it practical to be used inside homes, while yielding sufficient food for its residents.

Her system could allow anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador to produce their own leafy vegetables at home, year-round, in a cost-efficient manner.

“Different kinds of plants can be grown in homes to satisfy peoples’ needs,” she noted.

Prototype tested

Through her academic background in agricultural engineering, she came to appreciate what hydroponics has to offer in her field.

“Once I started investigating hydroponics, working on the hydroponic systems at Grenfell Campus was a great chance to get involved in this new area.”

So far, Ms. Fathidarehnijeh has designed, fabricated and evaluated the first prototype of her vertical hydroponic system.

She submitted a scientific draft to a Canadian journal and plans to submit her thesis early this fall.

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