Echoing Hope Ranch is a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities learn skills that will help them in jobs and when they are on their own. They’re adding to their catalog of educational opportunities with their new Aquaponics system.

The Aquaponics system combines raising aquatic animals and growing plants in water, creating a closed-loop system where fish waste provides nutrients to the plants and the plants filter and clean the water for the fish.

Echoing Hope Ranch Executive Director for Strategy and Planning, Chanse Frenette says the new system is good for the environment and also produces produce faster than traditional farming.

Thirty days and you have a full head of fresh lettuce, or kale or greens, he said.

Ranch Manager Daniel Wichgers, said the new system teaches the residents technology and agriculture skills, since the system is monitored on an app and the gardening skills offered are non-traditional.

Its a lot different than typical traditional farming, Wichgers said. Were in Arizona and we dont get much rain, so were going a much more sustainable route.

Wichgers said the Aquaponic system uses 90% less water than traditional soil growing. Frenette says this new system will let them grow more fresh produce in a shorter amount of time, allowing them to run their food-to-school program.

The program provides food to a local school district, but now he says they can partner with more schools.

We feel like we have the capacity now with the produce thats coming in to push it out and make a greater impact in our local community, Frenette said. When we can get healthy, locally sustained produce in at an early age, thats when we get them to adopt it from an early age and carry it on for life.

The ranch currently has two rows of the Aquaponics system set up in a greenhouse, but Frenette hopes they can fill the area with more. But the challenge is money. The nonprofit used grant money to purchase the materials for their current setup and will continue to find funds to help them with their goal.