Alex Tyink attended Appleton Area School District schools when he was growing up. Now, students in Appleton and in other Fox Valley schools are using his invention to grow their own produce.
Tyink is the founder and president of Fork Farms, a Green Bay-based business that makes vertical hydroponic systems called Flex Farms, which grow produce indoors without soil. Flex Farms units are white plastic structures surrounding a tower of LED lights. The combination of the lights, nutrient solution and water mimic the conditions plants need to grow. Each unit is powered by a standard electrical socket, takes up less than 10 square feet and can hold 288 plants.
Thanks to a nearly $64,000 donation from East Wisconsin Savings Bank, four Fox Valley schools received Flex Farm to use in classrooms and to grow produce for school lunches. Appleton East High School received one of the units. Environmental science teacher Ryan Marx said he has been wanting to get Flex Farms into the school for about five years.
Marx is already familiar with gardening and growing food — he has a garden at the high school and donates all the food to St. Joseph's Food Program in Menasha. One drawback with Marx's garden is that most of the work is done in the summer, when students are not in school. With Flex Farms, students will learn to grow healthy, nutritious food throughout the year.
Read more at The Post Crescent (Natalie Brophy)