MARTINSVILLE — Greg Marlett is all about mutually beneficial relationships. That’s why aquaponic systems appealed to him and why he’s working to set them up in area schools.
Marlett is chief executive officer of Fresh Way Farm, an agriculture education nonprofit. He has partnered with Martinsville’s Green Township Elementary School, Mooresville High School and the Indiana Agriculture & Technology School in Morgantown to teach children about an ancient farming technique that’s seen a recent resurgence.
Aquaponics is a system that combines the raising of aquatic animals with the cultivation of plants to create a symbiotic relationship. Naturally occurring bacteria convert fish waste into food for the plants. When plants absorb those nutrients, they’re also cleaning the water for the fish. No chemicals are needed for the plants or the fish.
“It’s absolutely bulletproof as far as organic,” Marlett said.
The efficiency of the aquaponics system Marlett built at home surprised him. It used about 10 percent of the energy and 2 percent of the water typically required for plants grown in soil — and the aquaponic plants grew about twice as fast as their land-based counterparts.
With so many benefits, Marlett thought this was something kids should be learning.
Paul Spahr, principal at Green Township Elementary, agreed. He was planning to get a small system set up at the school when he realized Marlett had the same idea.