Students at Belvedere College SJ in Dublin are currently growing crops, farming fish and breeding insects in a glass-roofed science laboratory called the GROWlab, an aquaponic farm featuring V-Farm technology with an innovative system of teaching sustainability in the city, a year-round space where students can learn about plant life cycles, green technology, and sustainable farming practices.
The top floor Growlab greenhouse is a laboratory and a dynamic classroom in which students learn where their food comes from, how much energy is used to produce it, and the relationships between diet and health, food and the environment. It’s a novel way, not of learning, but rather of experiencing science. In this living lab, which has become an integrated part of the school’s curriculum, students learn to appreciate the importance of sustainable development and the connections between cultural and biological diversity, while at the same time they become empowered to make educated choices about their own impact on the environment.
First and foremost, it's a hands-on classroom and science lab that brings to the hyper-local level issues of global concern: climate change, the efficient use of water and energy, how to build greener cities, and how to grow a secure and healthy food supply. It’s a whole learning approach–students make connections between what they are learning in science and social studies and how all of it is reflected in the world in which they live.
The GROWlab is alive every day of the school year, and active 365 days year-round, allowing students to experience science through interactive technologies such as V-Farm vertical vegetable farming and aquaponic fish farming combined with salad crop growing. Aquaponics is a closed loop system, where we feed fish, which in turn produce waste products, and we use this ammonia to nitrate cycle of waste as an organic food source for the growing plants and thus in turn the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in, creating a balanced cycle is critical.
The by-product of this growing is fresh produce throughout the school year – These Aquaponic systems yield lots of tasty crops, which in turn is being consumed and enjoyed by students, teachers and parents at the school.
Simon O'Donnell, of GROWlab is delighted with the V-Farm systems and commented “Stephen and the team at V-farm have been invaluable in the development of our Urban Farm at Belvedere College in Dublin. Even with the added complication of running our V-Farm units in an aquaponics system, they are performing fantastically well. As we look to expand and develop our systems, the incorporation of more V-Farm units are central to our plans”