MUNCIE — Ivy Tech Community College is looking to build a greenhouse and aquaponics center in Marion that would supply its culinary program in Muncie with fresh fish and produce.
The proposal is one of 33 priorities included in the East Central Region's $2.2 million budget request to the state board of trustees.
The greenhouse would include space for traditional horticulture and agriculture research and another space to grow fish and plants.
The aquaponics system would recirculate water from a fish-growing tank through gravel beds used to grow plants including lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and broccoli.
As the water passes through the gravel beds, the fish waste is filtered out and supplies the plants with nutrients like nitrogen and potassium. Once the water passes through all the grow beds, it is filtered and returned to the fish tank.
"In this way, the water is conserved and you are re-using the fish waste as plant fertilizer," Claire Berger, chairman of the region's agriculture program, told The Star Press. "It is an efficient way to maintain a fish tank. At the same time, we can use the fish to investigate growth rates using a variety of fish foods. This will be very useful in our animal nutrition class."
Berger said the region's agriculture program is still relatively new and appeals to students who want to work on family farms but want more education without traveling to Purdue University in West Lafayette.
Most students earn a two-year associate of applied science degree in agriculture, she said. Ivy Tech also offers associate of science degree in agriculture for students interested in transferring to a four-year institution like Purdue. That course of study includes more general education classes in English, math, humanities, social sciences and other subjects.
The greenhouse project is 16th on the region's funding priority list. Regional spokeswoman Betty Wingrove said she doesn't expect all of the spending priorities to be approved.
"How deep we go into the priority list we won't know until after the fiscal year starts" on July 1, she said.