High School Students Harvest First Crop of Strawberries Grown in Volcanic Cinders

Recently, students at Çınarlı Vocational and Technical Anatolian High School in Derince, Kocaeli, carried out the first harvest of strawberries grown in soilless agriculture, practiced within a 760-square-meter greenhouse set up in the schoolyard by Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality.

A few weeks ago, 3,500 strawberry seedlings were planted in the soilless farming greenhouse established in the schoolyard with the support of the Ministry of Trade.

In the greenhouse, where students gained experience in soilless agriculture from planting the strawberry seedlings to harvesting the crops, approximately 95% water saving was achieved through a cyclical system, and the first harvest was completed.

Data such as temperature, humidity, and the values of volcanic cinders used instead of soil are tracked by an automation system developed by teachers at the school.

School principal Selman Utkan stated that the soilless agriculture greenhouse was established in a 760-square-meter area in the schoolyard and that they planted 3,500 strawberry seedlings, conducting experiments to increase productivity. Utkan emphasized that the 48 students enrolled in the Agricultural Technologies Department, established this year, worked at every stage from planting strawberries to harvesting.

Utkan also mentioned that the students, who conduct practical lessons here, have recently harvested the strawberries they planted, expressing their happiness and stating that their primary goal is to conduct research and development (R&D) activities but they also plan to sell the strawberries to contribute to the school’s revolving fund.

Utkan highlighted that they achieved around 95% water savings in the greenhouse. He stated, “Thanks to our cyclical system, the water mixed with nutrients in our tanks circulates through the roots of the strawberries and returns to the reservoir, thus preventing excessive water consumption.”

Temel Fidan, Agricultural Services Branch Manager at Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality, mentioned that they have been conducting R&D studies on soilless agriculture in Kocaeli for 3 years to promote soilless agriculture greenhouses and that they are about to announce project supports for farmers in this field.

Fidan, who stated that they work on volcanic cinders at the high school in Derince, said, “The installation costs of greenhouses with volcanic cinders are much lower. We achieve the same yield by using fewer nutrients and consuming less water.”

Hakan Öztürk, the responsible teacher for the school’s Project and R&D Unit, explained that they designed and programmed the automation system used in the greenhouse. Öztürk stated that they track the pH and EC values of the nutrients taken by the strawberries, as well as the temperature and humidity of the greenhouse, and that the system intervenes automatically when the values reach the desired limits.

Öztürk emphasized that they look at research and applications worldwide and continue their work by adapting their own systems, stating, “We are still at the beginning. When we reach our goal, a system that can diagnose diseases of plants, provide data on when to apply which medicines or when to give nutrients, and what supplements to make will emerge. Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality supports our work. Through them, we will provide all the data and information we have obtained to our farmers.”

Ayyüce Kanmaz, a 9th-grade student in the Agricultural Technologies Department, explained that they were involved in planting strawberries in the greenhouse and that they gained experience through practical training. Kanmaz expressed that witnessing the growth of strawberries in front of their eyes is like receiving a high grade from an exam they took, and they feel proud and motivated when they harvest the fruits.

source: prepared by Melisa Beğiç

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