Teacher Feeds Students, Trains Farmers with Zero-Soil Aeroponics

The advanced food production operation is housed in a spare room at a Wisconsin high school.

Student technicians Desiree Veeser, Presley Kasten and Lilly Franzen harvesting food direct to the cafeteria.
Student technicians Desiree Veeser, Presley Kasten and Lilly Franzen harvesting food direct to the cafeteria.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — An encouraging story of advanced education in the heart of Wisconsin: AEssenseFresh, an ag tech company from Silicon Valley, delivered additional capacity to the AEtrium-2.1 SmartFarm, operated by Tom Sebranek, a Green Bay Southwest High School agriscience teacher.

The added capacity will enable continued expansion of the school’s advanced food production operation, housed in a spare room at Southwest High School. Sebranek credits former Superintendent Stephen Murley with helping to get the project started.

Sebranek produces highly nutritious fresh lettuce for his school lunch programs and teaches his advanced students year-round operational indoor farming methods and concepts using the latest precision sensor and software controlled aeroponic grow systems from AEssenseFresh.

His students manage production operations from seed-to-plate in their own cafeteria with results that delight their classmates and school administration. Along the way, Sebranek teaches marketing concepts (enhanced colors and taste) so his students recognize the value they can create just by adjusting their software to grow recipes and genetic selection (classic romaine, green-star, baltron crunch, red velvet).

Sebranek’s students study business management and complete a business case for managing a small farm with his “incredible hulk” (as they call the SmartFarm) as part of their curriculum.

“I expect that with a bit of seed capital, each one of my advanced students could start their own very successful local businesses delivering produce that is fresh off the grow tray with no comparison in the local markets year-round,” Sebranek said. “They have the experience by delivering harvest-to-table produce everyday with just individual class hours. In a full-time effort they could produce great results."

Sebranek integrates a complete science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) elements into his curriculum.

“Mr. Sebranek is a talented educator and models what great teachers do every day. He provides a healthy classroom learning environment that encourages ideas to grow and innovation to soar," said Southwest High School Principal Rod Bohm. "Students have opportunities to explore new learning and technology, work collaboratively, investigate and explore research, etc., to make it their own. Mr. Sebranek’s leadership is ideal and just what students need as they continue on their learning journey.”

Gail Wery, a student at Southwest who works with the AEssense system, said, “The Urban Agriculture class offered me a great opportunity to work hands-on with a very modern, no-soil gardening system. I love the AEssense aeroponics system because of the technology that is used to grow food for our school. I am delighted to be part of that.”

“Green Bay Area Public Schools is proud to have this exciting career pathway for students,” said Interim Superintendent Vicki Bayer. “Students are learning important life and career skills, while growing produce that is served in their cafeteria. With the current food issues concerning supply chains, inflationary costs, etc., having Southwest students provide fresh, healthy, and tasty produce for their meals is a win-win.”

“The team at Green Bay Southwest High School is producing high quality results with our aeroponic SmartFarm. We are delighted to work with Tom Sebranek and the Green Bay Area Public Schools to provide delicious produce year-round to feed their students,” said Robert Chen, CEO at AEssense. “Tom is an innovator and is wrapping all of his skills and professional history into his STEAM curriculum with great results.”

The world is challenged today by climate change, food production and affordability, and how to feed a growing global population. Indoor farming is a locally grown fresh alternative to growing plants in traditional good weather climates and shipping them across the country to local markets. The economics of food production are changing and Green Bay Area Public Schools are investigating the best approaches to local demand.

The AEssenseFresh AEtrium SmartFarm is in operation globally and combines user-friendly advanced technology with modular aeroponic indoor farming methods to deliver an easier, more cost-efficient path to high-velocity superior yields. The fully automated system uses the Guardian Grow Manager central management control software, which tirelessly executes a remotely monitored, tightly controlled, precise, sensor-based grow recipe including environmental management 24/7, 365 days a year.

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