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Teen brings aquaponics to Del Oro

By: Leah Rosasco, Loomis News Correspondent
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A local teen has been recognized for bringing a sustainable farming system to Del Oro High School. Del Oro sophomore Pierre Beauchamp, who lives in Christian Valley, was awarded the Busch Gardens/Sea World 2012 Environmental Excellence Award for his efforts to educate people about economically sustainable food production. Pierre plans to use the $10,000 award to fund the installation and operation of the aquaponic system he designed for Del Oro’s greenhouse. “I’m excited about it,” Pierre said of the award, but mostly he said, he’s excited about sharing what he’s learned with others, including his peers. Regina Dvorak, a Future Farmers of America advisor at Del Oro, and Pierre’s agricultural sciences teacher, nominated Pierre for the award. “The system itself is exciting because of the opportunity it offers for student learning,” Dvorak said. In addition to learning about biological processes, Dvorak said the system also has applications in geometry for the placement of components so that the water flow continuously. Dvorak said she is impressed by Pierre’s ability to spread the word about this project. “He has not been afraid to go out and meet with people and try to get support for it,” Dvorak said. Russ Kelley, of Loomis, is a supporter of Pierre’s aquaponics project. Kelley is a member of the Loomis Lions Club and the American Legion, Post 775, which both provided financial support for the project. Kelley will help install the electrical and solar components of the system and said Pierre is “very organized and willing to listen to others and take in what they say.” Pierre said he became interested in alternate means of growing food after his mom “dragged” him to a seminar on hydroponics at the University of Nevada at Reno when he was 13. Once he learned about growing food in a sustainable way, Pierre said he was inspired to try it. He was especially interested in these types of systems because they use 90 percent less water than traditional farming and can produce a large amount of food using vertical space. “These systems can be used just about anywhere, so anyone could have locally grown, fresh food,” Pierre said. With the help of his parents, Jerome Beauchamp and Mary Beauchamp, (nee Patrick), a 1987 Del Oro graduate, Pierre built a hydroponic system in his family’s greenhouse. Wanting to move away from using chemical fertilizers, Pierre turned his attention to aquaponics, which combines traditional aquaculture with hydroponics. He eventually modified the system to use live fish to produce fertilizer, rather than using chemicals. “He just kept building new systems and trying out new ideas,” Jerome Beauchamp said of his son’s work in the greenhouse. According to his parents, Pierre educated himself and learned through trial and error. “He actually used frogs for the first year, but then the frogs all grow up and hop out and you have no more fertilizer,” Mary Beauchamp said. The system now includes several tanks of live carp, catfish, and koi, that help produce a variety of vegetables, including Pierre’s favorite – snow peas. Over the next few weeks, Pierre’s aquaponics system will be installed in the FFA greenhouse at Del Oro. By next year, food from the garden will be incorporated into the school’s cafeteria and used by the Culinary Arts Program. Pierre said he’d like to start a Community Supported Agriculture program where boxes of produce would be delivered to Del Oro faculty and parents and he’d like to continue educating people about these systems. “I want to produce food in an economically sustainable way,” Pierre said. “And I want to teach people how to do it themselves.” Pierre’s plans will be on display during the FFA Open House from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 14, at Del Oro. DEL ORO FFA OPEN HOUSE What: Plant sale, barbecue, showcase of sustainable farm, aquaponics plans Who: Del Oro FFA When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m, Saturday, April 14 Where: Del Oro High School, 3301 Taylor Rd. Admission: Free Information: 652-7243