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CAN (NL): Sprouting solutions at Memorial University

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

According to Food First NL, Newfoundland & Labrador has fewer farms than any Canadian province. Eighty-four percent of N.L. communities do not have a grocery store from which to buy produce, and overall, we only have a two- or three-day supply of fresh produce if ferries are delayed by weather. Climate change and our short growing season make these matters worse.

As part of her master’s program in Boreal Ecosystems and Agricultural Sciences, Elham Fathidarehnijeh has designed a household hydroponic system she says can help alleviate these kinds of food security issues in N.L.

New technologies for old problems
Hydroponics is the practice of cultivating plants in a soilless 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 in a household while yielding sufficient food for the residents of that home.

Her system could allow anyone in N.L. 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 had 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 has submitted a scientific draft to a Canadian journal and plans to submit her thesis early this fall.


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