Watching Lettuce Grow – Aquaponics Research

Lactuca Sativa [April 1, 2011 – April 4, 2011], known to his friends and family as Green Grand Rapids Tropicana Lettuce passed away last Monday as a result of faulty irrigation systems. He lived his short life in the farm beds on TheIslandSchool campus, under shady covering. Throughout his life, he enjoyed soaking up sun, photosynthesizing, continual growth, and extracting nutrients from the rich compost. Had his life not tragically ended, he would have gone on to sustainably feed theIslandSchool community. He is survived by his family in the Aquaponics system at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Funeral arrangements were made by the aquaponics team and there will be an open wake for all that care to join this Saturday at2:37 pm. He will live on in our thoughts every time we eat salad and think about the salads that could have been.

The aquaponics team is currently conducting an experiment to understand which growing method: in ground or aquaponics, is ultimately more productive. In order to execute this, Green Grand Rapids lettuce has been planted in a newly constructed concrete plant bed, the old wooden bed, and at the Island School Farm. Although aquaponics proves to have economic and environmental benefits, it is projected that in ground farming will be more productive because it is natural and has more nutrients for the lettuce to use to grow. Hence, our hypothesis is “Lettuce grown in the ground will grow more quickly, will have lower mortality rates, and will have a greater harvest weight than in aquaponics systems.”

So far, we have had some complications, or shall we say casualties. The aquaponics system has been steady and reliant, but with the in-ground, we have had some issues. The irrigation system was not set up properly, so our first planting produced only 32 plants. We rebounded by germinating more plants and then… those died too. For the next few weeks we will be watching lettuce grow and recording data that will help us determine which growing medium is more productive. We are looking forward to the future and getting past our loss of lettuce life, to answer the hypothesis. Stay tuned.