Work being done at a Sudbury high school may bring fresh produce to the far reaches of northern Ontario.

Students at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School are studying the cost effectiveness of aquaponic farming, a system that uses fish to grow food.

They are trying to measure how an aquaponic system could feed a family of four for a year.

Aquaponic farming can be set up in anyone's home, Grade 9 student Caleb Smith said.

“Your head of lettuce would grow in about four weeks with this, whereas with a conventional farming system it would take an entire year of growing,” he said.

Aquaponic farming

Advocates of aquaponic farming say the system can be set up in anyone's home. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

“And the aquaponic system also uses 90 per cent less water than conventional farming, so it's better for the environment.”

The key to aquaponics lies in the water that the plants and fish share. The fish supply nutrients that feed the plants, and the plants clean the water so the fish can live in it. 

Lo-Ellen Park wants to add aquaponic systems into a self-sustaining greenhouse on its property that would be powered by solar energy.

Teacher Robert Smith introduced aquaponic farming to Sudbury's Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School three years ago.

Smith noted this type of farming could mean fresh food for people living in northern Ontario.

"It would be cost effective, especially when you consider the cost of the food being shipped to the north."

Laurentian University professor David Pearson is watching Smith's study closely.

He says he wants to set up an aquaponic system for a group of school children in Fort Hope, Ont. by the end of this year.

“The notion is that if we can get the kids interested, then maybe their parents will be interested."

Pearson says he hopes aquaponic farming will bring more vegetables to the plates of northern communities, where the growing season is short.