GH 2MADISONVILLE, Ky. (3/21/19) — Madisonville Community College students and others will now be able to study hydroponics as part of their general or specific studies.

MCC is continuing to expand its offerings in agriculture. Program director and ag instructor April Duncan spoke recently to the I-69 Alliance, describing opportunities at MCC. Students can obtain an associate’s in agriculture as well as other certificates.

While it is still under development, MCC’s goal is to offer the two-year program. Course selection includes ag business and marketing. Horticulture and greenhouse operations are under development, college officials indicated.

Duncan said online classes would be available next year for dual-credit students. Studies count toward high school and college credits, and up to six college credit hours could be earned through the program.

MCC’s ag program intends to prepare students for jobs in commercial/family farming, farm supply and implement companies, technicians, etc. Opportunities exist in extension office services. Jobs in hydroponics and greenhouse operations will also be options for students.

Duncan said the on-campus greenhouse was made possible by 2017 USDA grant funds, adding production in the greenhouse began Feb. 22. They are currently growing several types of plant life, and the greenhouse is used for education on how to operate a hydroponic greenhouse in addition to building a business model.

Also addressing the group was Yaneth Peach, who owns 25 greenhouses in Honduras. Peach said, while there are differences between greenhouse operations in Honduras and Madisonville, there are actually more similarities. She noted students are very smart and quickly learn the techniques of operating a hydroponics greenhouse; however, they must gain knowlege on the business side.

Yaneth is looking to build her own hydroponics operation, saying her ideal size is about 20,000 square meters or just more than 4 acres.

When questioned about the advantages of hydroponically grown vegetables over traditional processes, Peach explained guaranteed quality with controlled environment and food safety were important.

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“We don’t use pesticides, Peach said. “We use biological control of insects.”

She also pointed out local production means less transportation and fresher products, and more can be grown in the same space, because plants are grown year around that results in several crops being harvested yearly. Plus, five plants can be grown hydroponically in the space of one or two, traditionally.

Duncan said that they have begun working with grow lights and will be experimenting with vertical greenhouses as well as horizontal. She hopes both prove successful to improving productivity and profitability.

Ron Sanders

SurfKY News

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