May 6, 2011
Agriculture student, associate professor develop hydroponic garden
By Nichole Beckman, media relations assistant
MARYVILLE, Mo. - With their ideas for creating a hydroponic garden, Northwest Missouri State University graduate Clinton Gesling and his instructor Jamie Patton are serving the community and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.
Dr. Jamie Patton, associate professor of soil science in the Department of Agriculture, developed the idea of creating an enabled hydroponic garden after talking with faculty members Jon Gustafson and Terry Robertson about activities at the Mozingo Outdoor Education Recreation Area (MOERA).
An enabled hydroponic garden is elevated and uses water instead of soil to grow fruits, vegetables and other plants. Holes are punched in piping where the plants are inserted.
"By raising the garden up, those in wheelchairs or those just not able to get on the ground will be able to participate in garden activities and smell the flowers," Patton said.
But when Patton approached some of her students about the idea of building a hydroponic garden, Gesling devised an innovative way of ensuring the plants receive the nutrients they need. Gesling, a Centralia native, graduated from Northwest this spring with a bachelor's degree in agricultural business.
He first developed a way to pump water throughout the garden. The constant flow of water is mixed with nutrients pumped from a container, and recycled through the system. Gesling realized the breeze coming off Mozingo Lake on the MOERA course provides an ideal environment for keeping a generator's batteries charged to run the pump.
Gesling then created a wind turbine along the shore of Mozingo Lake that provides electricity to the generator. The structure is 12 feet tall and cost just $20 to create.
"We are giving materials new life as energy producers," Gesling said. "I built this portion of the project out of scraps and used treadmill motors as generators."
Patton said she is impressed with Gesling's ability to take an idea, search for a design and implement the project.
"I simply mentioned we were thinking of building an accessible hydroponic garden and the rest is his design and creativity," Patton said. "He not only has the electrical, engineering and agronomic skills to make the project a success, but also the desire to give back to the Northwest and Maryville community."
Patton hopes their project can be turned into a way to create portable enabled gardens, or hydroponic gardens attached to trailers. Such gardens could be transported to nursing homes and schools, as a way to educate people and help them develop new skills.
"We want to help participators access healthy, nutritious foods, improve their quality of life and introduce a new generation to how food is created," Patton said. "We hope that this year is just the beginning, and we hope to build on and improve in subsequent years."
Gesling takes pride in his creation, but he also appreciates the opportunity to make a difference in the community.
"This project gave me the opportunity to help somebody and to leave a lasting impression on the college and community," he said. "This is a great way to give back an idea that will be very beneficial."
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Northwest Missouri State University
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