High Point opens new greenhouse

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  • PHOTOS BY VERA OLINSKI From left, students Alysha Fluri and Amanda Dwornikoski examine the progress of their plants.

  • The High Point Regional High School Greenhouse Hydroponic systems thrive.

  • Augustin maintains the Aquaponics system.

  • From left, teachers Paul Cardinal and Alexander Gonzalez interact with students.

Beautiful purple light radiates from the new greenhouse at High Point Regional High School, along with relaxing warmth and the peaceful sound of running water.

Technological Studies teacher Alexander Gonzalez and Industrial Technology teacher Paul Cardinal were instrumental in researching and proposing the new greenhouse.

STEM Supervisor Brian Drelick said the old greenhouse suffered structural damage due to winters and hurricanes. He continued, Gonzalez did a lot of band-aids and even put a tarp on the roof last year, thus, getting the facility out of dormancy; and Cardinal researched and proposed colored lights which take the greenhouse to a deeper level of science regarding growth rates.

In addition, students from Ben Kappler's Architecture class proposed the re-design of the greenhouse structure; and last summer, the High Point Maintenance team rebuilt the new greenhouse on the existing platform.

Cardinal further explained, plants use the red light spectrum for growth; and the blue lights help produce fruit. Therefore, they used the two different colors to optimize levels of growth.

Gonzalez and Cardinal also redesigned the lighting configuration to be placed directly above the plants.

Gonzalez explained, their Bio Tech class students chose what to grow, researched, and designed the best Hydroponic systems to support the plants. Hydroponic systems use nutrients in water, without soil.

Gonzalez said some of their Hydroponic systems are: Water Culture, a platform floating on water — optimal for lettuce and tomatoes; Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), a small layer of nutrients and constantly flowing water — good for cucumber plants and vines; Overflow, the top tank fills up and overflows to the bottom one — basil grew very well with huge leaves; Aeroponics, a pump sprays water onto roots inside a tank; and Aquaponics, fish eat, produce fertilizer in water, and the fertilized water feeds the plant.

The new heaters run almost all the time during winter, commented Gonzalez; and recently, when the outside temperature was 8 degrees, the greenhouse temperature remained at 68 degrees.

Gonzalez added, they never have plants flowering in Dec. Usually, plants start to flower in March. However, they already had cucumber plants flowering and full size tomato plants, all from seeds the students had sprouted in October.

Drelick said during the Bio Tech program, the students split their time between the classroom environment and greenhouse.

When the students arrived in the greenhouse, there was a lot of activity and discussion about the best way to care for their systems and plants.

An Aquaponics team explained, their design was inspired by the huge Aquaponics system at Disney's Epcot in F.L. There, the fish swimming underneath the boats give nutrients to the plants in the greenhouses.

At High Point, the team pumps water from the fish tank through the plant roots and back to the fish. The plant roots act as a filter, oxidizing the water for the feeding fish. The team also uses an air stone, similar to an aerator, which adds more oxygen to the fish water. It is an ongoing system where the fish and plants benefit each other.

On another team, Amanda Dwornikoski and Alysha Fluri already have little pea pods and peas producing with their Hydroponic system.

Fluri commented, she likes the calm atmosphere in the green house.

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