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CLUB SPOTLIGHT: The UW Hydroponics Club and the Future of Farming

Words and Photos By: Philip Tran

The Journey

The environmental impacts of the agricultural industry are well-documented, from the vast amounts of land and water use, to the contamination of soils from pesticides and other chemicals. In order to mitigate these effects, innovative solutions, and innovative leaders are required. That’s where Chadd Bauman (left) and Kyle Born (right) come in. The two are both 3rd year Environment and Business students, and co-founders of the UW Hydroponics Club located at the TREE Lab in Environment 1 (EV1). Behind them is the ZipGrow Education Rack, a simple, easy-to-use hydroponic platform, and centerpiece of the UW Hydroponics Club. 

Like most great ideas, the UW Hydroponics Club started with an opportunity. At the beginning of the fall 2019 term, the Waterloo Environment Student Endowment Fund (WESEF) announced that they had $100,000 of funding available for the term for students who had an idea to improve academics or the student experience for the Faculty of Environment.

“I had this idea of having a hydroponics club or just an [education] rack of some kind to work with,” said Born. “I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for, but I knew I wanted to get into the agricultural field.”

After submitting his proposal and pitching his idea to the WESEF Board, Born was approved for funding in November of 2019. It was also around this time that Born met co-founder Chadd Bauman. Coincidentally, Bauman was working on finding sustainable energy sources for hydroponic systems, so the two quickly connected and decided to pursue the Hydroponics Club together. They submitted the order for the ZipGrow Education Rack in January, and with the generous support from the Ecology Lab, were able to secure the TREE Lab to house the rack, thus marking the official start of the UW Hydroponics Club.

What are Hydroponics Systems?

Hydroponics refers to the process of growing herbs and greens in a nutrient-rich environment without the use of soil. It provides a solution for many of the obstacles faced by traditional agriculture as it requires little to no harmful chemicals or pesticides and can be done indoors, allowing for year-round production. The process is also much less labour intensive and is relatively easy to operate and maintain; in particular, the ZipGrow Education Rack essentially only requires users to add water and monitor pH levels.

Born spoke highly of the sustainable aspect of hydroponic systems, “you can grow all sorts of herbs and greens using a tenth of the water, and a tenth of the land.”

Other benefits of hydroponic systems include the ability to control all aspects of the growing conditions, from humidity and ph levels, to water, and air temperatures.

Welcome to the Club!

Since launching in January, the UW Hydroponics Club has caused some major buzz around the Faculty of Environment, with some professors already expressing interest in incorporating the Education Rack into their courses. 

The club has amassed a team of about 25 members, including an executive team consisting of two co-founders, a director of finance, internal and external directors of relations, and three plant biologists. 

They are currently in the process of working on a partnership with St. Jerome’s University, as they are planning to sell the herbs and greens grown by the club to use as additional funding. 

“The biggest accomplishment we’ve had is everyone who is involved. Back when I first had this idea, I would’ve never imagined that it would [get] to where it is now.” Born explains.

With a successful month of operations under their belt, Born and Bauman are hoping to continue to grow the Hydroponics Club and use it as a platform for both students and faculty to engage with and learn about the world of horticulture and hydroponics. 

The UW Hydroponics Club is open for anyone to join! Their executive team is full, but you can still join the club in the role of Farm Technician, which consists of helping with daily operations such as managing water and ph levels of the plants (looks great on a resume!).

They will be hosting workshops at the TREE Lab on March 12th as part of ENVigorate 2020! If you’re interested in joining the club or just learning more about hydroponics in general, consider attending!

For more information, you can contact the club directly:

uwhydroponics@gmail.com

Instagram: uw_hydroponics

Facebook: UW Hydroponics Club

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