After a five-week period during which Bark-River Harris students used mobile hydroponic farming technology to germinate seeds and grow lettuce within the confines of Mr. Allen Botwright’s science classroom, the high schoolers made their first harvest of a large crop of lettuce.

Through grants awarded by the Superior Health Foundation, which aims to assist with research and education surrounding health in the Upper Peninsula, 12 schools in the U.P. were provided with Flex Farms, fully-contained hydroponic grow units from Wisconsin-based Fork Farms. The wheeled unit, which is shaped somewhat like an octagonal prism when closed, stands a little less than six feet tall and has a vertical hinge so that it can close around its LED lights and maximize efficiency. When opened, each half displays walls with holes through which produce grows. The base holds water and tubes and pipes carry water — and added nutrients — over the plants’ roots, which are on the back sides of the walls.

At Bark River-Harris High School, students in Botwright’s sixth-hour environmental science class got to break into the vertical farm to grow Green Star lettuce.

“We made a decision as a class to plant only one type of produce at this point in time,” said Botwright. “None of us really knew what we were doing — including me. And the recommendation of Fork Farms is to plant the seeds that have the hygroscopic coating on them. It absorbs water, and that helps germination — and they’re they’re larger.”

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