Since starting work in March, aquaponics and hydroponics apprentices Patrick Howard and Danny Haymonds have been blazing a trail - and it’s about to get a whole lot bigger.
Patrick and Danny, who are employed by Incredible Edible Todmorden Ltd, are undertaking horticultural apprenticeships in association with Myerscough College, Preston, the first of their type in the country.
Under the guidance of manager Steve Welsh they have developed an aquaponics and hydroponics unit in a classroom block at Todmorden High School and things are set to move up in scale in June when a full scale 50-metre long permanent unit opens at the back of the school.
They have learned about setting up aquaponics and hydroponics units, which are cutting-edge techniques in vegetable growing, enabling them to produce vegetables at any time of the year, equipped to control the heat, nutrients, pH of the water and amount of light plants receive as well as minimising the impact of pests and diseases, increasing productivity.
Patrick explained how tanks of fish - initially with 400 goldfish but with the capacity to include edible carp when the new unit opens - introduce nitrogen into the water, the nutrients filtered through to the growing beds. The water is then effectively filtered again by the plants and goes back around to the fish tank. Within weeks 37 different varieties of vegetables have started growing.
With fish breeding already, he said he and Danny were really enjoying their first weeks of work and the challenge ahead when things move up in scale.
Danny said: “This is just a demonstration room, showing what we can do when the site is set up.” Both have worked on regular growing beds in the community and children will be able to learn at the new unit with aquaponics and hydroponics involving subjects including mathematics and science. And as well as producing vegetables, surplus fish from breeding will also be available as food or to be sold.