MBTI’s Aquaponics Program Emphasizes Community-Minded Agriculture
February 25, 2022
Bringing Zero-Waste Techniques to the Table
As part of a unique partnership, Manitoba Building Trades Institute has been working with cohorts from Seven Oaks School Division’s Co-op Vocational Program over the last several months at our new Aquaponics Greenhouse facility. This hands-on initiative allows students to gain exposure to the sustainable and nutritional benefits of aquaponics farming, while also learning how to build and operate their own aquaponics system.
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture through fish farming, hydroponics and growing plants without soil in nutrient rich water. The product is a synergistic and efficient agriculture technique in which both fish and plants are grown together in the same system without needing to discard water or add chemical fertilizers. As a result, aquaponics addresses many of the environmental issues of traditional aquaculture and hydroponics while retaining the benefits of both fields.
Carmen Grey, MBTI’s Training Manager ensures proper environmental conditions are maintained within the Aquaponics Greenhouse during the co-op program.
In the Aquaponics Greenhouse, students are responsible for maintaining a healthy ecosystem and performing tasks like seeding, monitoring the crops and fish, conducting tests for water quality maintenance, scouting for insects and growth abnormalities, managing inventory of the lab, and harvesting.
“We specialize in leafy greens because we grow our produce using a deep water culture system,” says Carmen Grey, MBTI’s Training Manager. “This means that the roots of every vegetable are submerged underwater from seedling to maturity.”
Since opening its doors in 2021, the Aquaponics Greenhouse has successfully produced harvests of romain lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard and various herbs such as mint, dill and basil.
Making An Impact
While MBTI’s Aquaponics Greenhouse primarily acts as a free learning tool for students rather than a revenue stream, a core part of the curriculum focuses on the socioeconomic impacts of food production – specifically in addressing food insecurity.
According to a 2020 study from Community Food Centres Canada, 1 in 7 Canadian households experience inadequate access to fresh food due to financial and location related restraints. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of impacted households has continued to rise.
“It’s our social responsibility to contribute to the community in a meaningful way,” says Grey. “We believe everyone should have access to fresh food, which is why we’ve partnered with Fireweed Food Co-op as our primary distributor to helps actualize change.”
Fireweed Food Co-op is a non-profit that promotes small-scale farming to support the local food supply chain. Their goal is to create a regional food system that prioritizes regenerative and sustainable ecological practices, while also emphasizing fair labour practices.
In collaboration with Mutual Aid Society Winnipeg and their meal program, Serve the People, Fireweed’s Waste Not Program collects fresh food donations from local growers and suppliers – like MBTI – to reduce food waste and provide hampers to those in need.
“As an aquaponics producer, their core values align closely with our efforts to create local and organic food in a sustainable way.”
MBTI’s Aquaponics Greenhouse has made approximately 15 deliveries to Fireweed Food Co-op, helping disperse over 350 lbs of fresh produce throughout the city.
Our Aquaponic Greenhouse Program is available to students throughout the school year from September to June with full day sessions running from 9am to 3:30pm. Training in aquaponic system management is available for educators interested in running a classroom session of their own. For more information on MBTI’s sustainability programs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. or visit mbtrades.ca/aquaponics