Dr. Matthew Sanders (center) discussing an aquaponics system model that will be scaled up and constructed in a facility in Flint.

Aquaponics project receives $25,000 C3 grant from Ford Motor Company Fund

Kettering’s project, which received $25,000 from the Ford C3 program, features Kettering students designing an aquaponics system that students in Metro Community Development’s YouthBuild program will help construct.

A partnership between Kettering University and Metro Community Development is one of 16 student-led projects from 15 universities to win a grant in the 2014 Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3).

The grants -- totaling $280,000 -- support student-led work that is focused on addressing urgent community needs and building sustainable communities. Kettering’s project, which received $25,000 from the Ford C3 program, features Kettering students designing an aquaponics system that students in Metro Community Development’s YouthBuild program will help construct. It will address two key issues that impact many cities -- access to healthy food and limited opportunities to develop career skills.

The system itself will help grow produce that can be sold locally at venues like the Flint Farmer’s Market. The YouthBuild students will learn engineering concepts while working alongside Kettering students. And the facility itself will be scalable -- as soon as the model is proven, it can be constructed in a larger facility that will create job opportunities.

“We are making an enclosed system that eliminates waste,” said Jeanette Smith, an all but thesis Kettering student working on the project. “We can grow a lot of food in a small space. The YouthBuild students will learn how to maintain the system and harvest plants and also learn real-world job skills. Produce will go back to people of Flint through the Farmer’s Market -- Flint needs more access to good produce at a reasonable cost.”

Currently, Kettering has a small scale model and plans to start construction on a larger facility in what was formerly a warehouse space in the Metro Community Development building. Eventually, a large-scale operation could move to the former Flint Farmer’s Market location on Chavez Driver.

The Ford C3 funding will help with initial construction costs to get the Metro Community Development facility up and running. This is the third time Kettering has received funding through the Ford C3 program -- two other projects with Harvesting Earth Farms, an urban farm in Beecher, were also funded.

“The support of the Ford Motor Company Fund has been instrumental, not only in this project, but now on three projects that will make tangible impacts on improving the quality of life in Flint and opportunities for residents,” said Dr. Matthew Sanders, professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of the Center for Culminating Undergraduate Experience who is the faculty advisor to the professional practice thesis students working on the aquaponics project.

Ford C3 recognizes colleges and universities for utilizing school resources and student participation to address an urgent community need under the theme: Building Sustainable Communities. Ford C3 winners are required to present proposals for sustainable projects with significant student input, involvement and leadership. Water conservation, renewable energy, urban gardening, recycling and transportation are among the proposals submitted by these creative teams of students.

“Educating the next generation of leaders is at the center of Ford Fund’s commitment to a better world,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “Education, innovation and sustainable solutions is a powerful formula for success in our communities, and will help future engineers; managers and entrepreneurs build a solid foundation for the careers of tomorrow.”

The $280,000 in grants are part of $1 million in new scholarships, grants and career outreach programs that Ford’s philanthropic arm launched this month to further its commitment to education.

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. Ford Driving Skills for Life teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in 30 countries. For more information, visit the website.

Written By Patrick Hayes | Contact: Patrick Hayes - phayes@kettering.edu - (810) 762-9639