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Roncalli STEM academy pioneering Urban Gardening

Roncalli STEM academy pioneering Urban Gardening
Screen Shot 2021-02-02 at 12.03.45 PM
Vertical grow tower at Rancolli Stem Academy

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- The future of gardening is here in Pueblo as seventh-graders at Roncalli STEM Academy will get to experience firsthand how vertical grow towers work.

Vertical farming is a newer way of farming that is soil-less and uses much less water than traditional farming.

Julian Marfil, a student at Roncalli STEM academy is very familiar with traditional agriculture.

"I own of farm up in Cheyenne Wyoming with my family," said Marfil.

With his background he knows what it takes to grow crops from the ground up, but this is different.

"It is not normal like where you are just going to put it on the ground and let it grow for weeks, you have sunlight, water and all that," added Marfil.

Growing crops through the garden tower is a different process.

"This is our very first year, we went with the suggestions that grows best inside, so it has to be something like lettuces and herbs, but once it is later in the year then we can wheel these outside and we can grow tomatoes and peppers," said Triina Ketola, Roncalli STEM Academy teacher.

The process is quite simple.

First, seeds are planted in the rockwool which helps plant roots efficiently absorb the water and oxygen. Then they leave the crop under a grow light for about three weeks. Students will use vermiculite, as a growing medium, this is a mineral used to improve moisture retention. They then will transfer the plant to the tower and wait for it to blossom.

"If a plant was outside and if there is a drought for two weeks, the plant will just try to survive, but in the grow towers they are continuously getting the nutrients and water all the time and that is why they say it grows faster," added Ketola. This means, regardless of the weather, these crops will still grow.

For now, these students are the first to try these new pieces of technology but, Marfil remains hopeful that this could be the future answer to helping those suffering from hunger.

"I think this will help a lot of people like homeless and all that, shelters, if they can't access food this would be a great source for them," said Marfil.

Jasmine Arenas

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