A seasonable idea to test a hydroponic greenhouse in a school setting has blossomed into a flourishing pesto venture for students with disabilities in Katherine.
It is well known that hydroponics - a form of gardening which grows plants in a solution of water and nutrients instead of soil - accelerates growth exponentially.
But when the students at Kintore Street School first set foot in their greenhouse in the middle of last year they had no idea that just four weeks later they'd have harvested too much to know what to do with.
"We decided to make and sell native basil and macadamia pesto," Kintore Street School's senior teacher Shayne Cox said.
"Ideally we want it to become an enterprise."
For the students at Kintore, a school which supports students aged between four and 20 years with greater needs, career opportunities are limited, Mr Cox said.
"Generally our students were looking at working at places like Equalitea (a training and employment cafe for young people with disabilities) but that has since gone," he said.
"Horticulture is one of the pathways a lot of our students are interested in... It is a big industry here, we have mango farms and Parks and Wildlife, and additionally it is year round work rather than reliant on tourism."
From maintaining the plants to harvesting and selling the final product, the whole school effort saw each student playing a part in the new pesto business.
Starting small, and keeping sales local, the students made upwards of $100.
But round two started just last week. Rows of native basil, lettuce and bok choy are already peaking through as the students maintain tight controls within the greenhouse.
Gardening is not a foreign concept for students at Kintore Street. They have maintained a community plot at the Katherine Museum, and in 2019 and 2020 a class of boys worked at Food Ladder - a not-for-profit organisation that establishes sustainable and hydroponic gardens in remote communities which typically rely on aid.
"Food Ladder approached us about having a mini version of their hydroponic system, and we already had a garden growing corn, eggplant, tomatoes and dragonfruit and such," Kintore teacher Ian Gudgeon said.
His class of six boys aged 13 to 15 have been hands on in the greenhouse since before its inception.
"It has been a way of engaging the young men and providing real-life learning," Mr Gudgeon said.
"It's given them the opportunity to see something through from start to finish, and they've been extremely fascinated by the process."
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