We have worked to increase the community's collective knowledge and interest in urban farming jobs by introducing K-12 grade students to indoor agricultural technologies and hands-on experiments in hydroponics, aquaponics, and growing plants.
The I WILL Projects’ Indoor Farming Innovation Zone was conceived to fill a local need for southern Colorado: to close the educational gaps for students to pursue jobs and careers in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) and provide a hands-on opportunity to earn high school diplomas, learn new skills, and/or enter college programs with stronger understanding of sustainability around food production. STEAM literacy leads to higher earning potential, and ultimately, a greater level of personal self-sufficiency in the modern world.
The IFIZ team has worked to increase the community's collective knowledge and interest in urban farming jobs by collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club, Pueblo City Schools’ Minnequa Elementary, Central High, and the Colorado State University-Pueblo intern program. These efforts have led to additional interest from other public and online schools to explore aquaponics as a teaching tool in 2019 and beyond.
During 2015-2016, the IFIZ team of specialists (see Our Team) built a horticultural ‘Learning Lab’ in Pueblo, Colorado to demonstrate the potential of year-round, food production using aquaponic and vertical grow systems. The Learning Lab allows the team to do research and coding on small grow kits available on the retail market, perform controlled experiments on seed germination, tanks, and lighting, offer invite-only tours and host team meetings. The aquatic tanks and plant grow beds vary in size and styles.
Aquaponic grow systems (APS) require less chemicals, create natural fertilizers, and grow organic food. APS are four to six times more productive to grow vegetables, fruit, and herbs in the same amount of space, and use ninety percent (90%) less water than conventional gardens in soil. These qualities are a plus for the semi-arid region of southern Colorado, since APS has great potential to bring fresh produce to low-income populations year 'round. This soil -less concept is poised to play a significant role in agriculture and horticulture as new emphasis is placed on highly productive, urban, and sustainable methods of growing food.
Our organization is committed to the ideal that innovative education concepts and
opportunities can help people overcome socio-economic barriers. In a time when interest in agriculture education is waning, IFIZ is making progress in demonstrating that growing healthy food year ‘round indoors is possible, exciting, and innovative.
Aquaculture: raising fish in a controlled environment, indoors or outdoors.
Hydroponics: growing plants without soil.