Texas Tech medical students build hydroponic system to help feed families in Lubbock

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – A group of medical students from Texas Tech Health Sciences Center are using hydroponics to help feed families in the Southern Plains, alongside the nonprofit Lubbock Impact .

Fourth-year graduate student Emily Fine is leading the way, combining her knowledge of public health and her love for urban agriculture to give back to the community.

She and her classmates built a hydroponic system, which pumps recycled water through pipes, providing the plants with a nutrient-rich solution to help them grow.

The system does not require soil or sunlight and does not take up much space. It is located under a staircase at Lubbock Impact, a non-profit organization that offers community resources such as meals, free medical and dental clinics, food and pantry vouchers, and clothing.

All produce grown with the system will go directly to the soup kitchen, helping to provide ingredients to feed up to 300 people a week.

With minimal maintenance, Fine says Lubbock Impact admins wondered what they needed to do to help keep it running.

“Wanda will text me like, ‘Hey, am I supposed to check this system? Like, is it running? And I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, it’s just running. You can just let it go. Enjoy the good water runoff,” Fine said. “Inside you don’t even have to worry about bugs, bad weather, especially here in Lubbock when who knows how hot it’s going to be in the summer , as well as wind here.”

Fine paved the way for the project, after volunteering at the free medical clinic run by TTUHSC at the nonprofit organization. She says that during her time on the leadership team, she kept hearing the same thing from patients.

“As a student volunteer, you also have the opportunity to see patients firsthand and what affects them in their daily lives. And in talking with them, many of them mention that it is sometimes difficult to have healthy food. It’s just easy to stop at a gas station or any little market and pick up some Cheetos or who knows what,” Fine said.

During her undergrad in Dallas, she volunteered in community gardens, learning more about hydroponic systems. She spent a lot of time at Big Tex Urban Farms, located at the State Fairgrounds.

During the fair’s offseason, she says, the organization uses the parking lots to grow plants. Inside there are several hydroponic systems. Fine says she always wanted to create a system here in Lubbock, so when it came time for a community project for medical school, she knew exactly what to do.

“We have little little groups within the School of Medicine that you get together, I think it’s probably once a month, maybe once every two months. We have two faculty members and during one of the discussions they asked us what we like to do in our spare time, our hobbies,” Fine said. “And I mentioned that I was really interested in systems like this and would like to start one, and then they just gave me a lot of encouragement and told me nothing is stopping you You should really try to do that.

She reached out to Vikram Baliga, Texas Tech’s greenhouse manager, and he helped the project flourish.

“He was a great help for this project. He really helped me with just about everything, from helping me figure out which grants to apply for, to walking me to the store to pick up materials, to asking his student assistants to help me out. help build.

As the students test the system, they grow herbs. Later, they hope to grow heartier foods like lettuce and collard greens for the soup kitchen.

“We can hopefully start providing them with more nutritious food. If something, for example, inspires them to start their own garden or just get interested in growing something for themselves,” Fine said.

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