Exciting News! We've just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo today! With your help, we are on track to build our next-stage commercial greenhouse and couldn't be more thrilled. This project will create jobs for 5 young adults with autism and grow 45,000 pounds of vegetables each year. That's a lot of impact! We invite all of you to pledge your support and share our campaign widely with your family and friends:
Last week we had our first round of planting for our aquaponic system at the Hannah and Friends greenhouse. Thanks to Katie Teitgen, H&F's Director of Operations, for serving as photographer for our very first planting session! Everyone rolled up their sleeves and got to work. We planted three crops - basil, red butterleaf lettuce, and green romaine - dividing our Hannah and Friends crew into three stations, each planting a different crop. Each of these veggies will be transplanted into their own grow bed in a few days once they're big enough - so all in all, we'll have 6 different crops going when the system's up and running.
We've been checking and rechecking our system at Hannah and Friends every day. You'll find us there with test tubes in hand, test strips at the ready, to see what the latest readings are for pH, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Our system is progressing along, and the changes we see are not in big spikes but a quarter part per million change here and there. This is to be expected, and we're holding steady. What we are waiting for is the appearance of nitrates in our system, which means that helpful bacteria are at work and changing nitrogen into a form that is great for our plants. We know why patience is a virtue - because it helps with launching an aquaponic system, as in everything else!
We've built our greenhouse and put in the plumbing, grow beds and fish tanks for our aquaponic system - now, what's next?
"FISH" and "PLANTS" you might say!! And of course you'd be right! But first, we at Green Bridge Growers are working through a process called "Fishless Cycling." What on earth is that?
Chris gives a quick explanation on the video clip here - the first on our new Green Bridge Growers YouTube channel! Give it a look!
We've been working with our Hannah and Friends partners almost weekly in the past month - Lauren, Chris, and Jan have worked with residents and day program participants to teach some of the important features of aquaponics. What makes a system work in harmony, how to test the water chemistry, fish biology, and the basics of plants have been the topics of the day at Hannah and Friends!
"It's been great being part of the building of our first aquaponics greenhouse! There was lots of teamwork involved, many hours of hard work, and determination to see it finished. We had to be very precise in our measurements and we had to go over all our instruction manuals carefully to make sure we had everything right. It's been rewarding to get the greenhouse up, and it will be even more rewarding when everything is in place and starts operating. We're all looking forward to putting the finishing touches on the system so we can start growing our plants and fish. A big thanks to Wes Ward, who manages the grounds at Hannah and Friends, for all his help, patience, expertise, and trouble-shooting as we put the greenhouse together. I put this slideshow together so you can see our progress and steps to complete the greenhouse - hope you enjoy it!"
Our venture has been quite fortunate to have four fantastic team members who have worked night and day for Green Bridge Growers the past seven months - Tom Collins, Shane McCarthy, Conor O'Donoghue, and Anthony O'Sullivan. All hail from or attended school in County Cork, Ireland, all are engineers, and all just finished a graduate degree in science/engineering entrepreneurship at Notre Dame, the ESTEEM program. Collectively, they are known around ND as "the Cycling Irish" because they ride their bikes everywhere! And besides being all-out outstanding, they have the most charming brogues you'll ever find here in South Bend. As you can see from the photo above, they also have real panache and humor.
A lot of hands-on building for Green Bridge Growers lately - on our greenhouse, and in building partnerships and connections in the community. In addition to our handy work with hammer and drill, we're happy to have shared the Green Bridge Growers story recently with a number of stakeholders --- Goodwill Industries in South Bend, Notre Dame entrepreneurship classes, Century Center committees, and with Logan Center and its friends. Based on feedback, bringing our aquaponics-based business to our community - and employing those on the autism spectrum in the process - is a source of much hope!
We were just up in Wisconsin recently for more learning and training with our friends at Growing Power in Milwaukee. Several of our team participated in their aquaponics workshop, an intensive three-day course that combined the science of growing fish and vegetables together with hands-on construction where we built an aquaponic system from scratch! We were excited to meet fellow aquapons from all over the country, as well as those from far-away places like London and Greece.
Green Bridge Growers is excited to bring on board our summer intern, Lauren Jessup, who graduated from Notre Dame last month with a major in Science Business. In just a short time, Lauren's made great contributions to move our venture forward - with much creativity, good humor, and persistence. Lauren started off impressively - during her first 24 hours on the job, she'd already negotiated a very sizeable donation of materials that are needed to build our greenhouse system at Hannah and Friends! She's kept that pace up each day, wowing us all with her great resourcefulness and hard work.