WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — To help address the issue of food deserts and finding innovative ways to feed hungry people in their community, Greenfield Central FFA members Ethan and Abby Elsbury decided to build a low-cost nutrient film technique system where fresh produce can be grown without soil.

“A food desert is where no grocery store, farmers market, or healthy food choices are available,” Abby said.

Her older brother, Ethan, said that one of the ways to help solve the issue of food deserts is through urban farming such as hydroponics, which is done with a lack of soil as a medium and water is used instead.

Taking simple items found at a local hardware store including downspout elbows, downspout tubing, plastic tote, submersible fountain pump, rockwool cubes and seeds such as lettuce, individuals can make a low-cost nutrient film technique system that can grow fresh produce, including lettuce leaves and herbs.

Elsbury noted that if an individual were to purchase a nutrient film technique system from a company that makes them, the average cost is between $100 and $150, but if individuals were to make it themselves, like the one she and her brother made, the average cost is around $20.

“Ours cost $20 and would let someone get their foot in the door of the agriculture industry,” she said.

Their FFA horticulture and landscape management leadership development project won at the state competition during the 90th Indiana FFA state convention, Ethan said the project has turned into something much bigger than just a competition. He said he wants to show people how easy and inexpensive it is to grow food locally and help eliminate the issue of food deserts.

Although Ethan has graduated, Abby still is in FFA and has plans this year to incorporate her nutrient film technique system in the local community and teach other individuals how to make it, as well.

Ashley Langreck can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 192, or alangreck@agrinews-pubs.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Langreck.

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