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Sinclair College student designs aeroponic system, plans to make fresh produce more accessible

A bin of plants growing inside the mobile aeroponic vegetable growing system.
Leanora Royster-Ivy
A bin of plants growing inside the mobile aeroponic vegetable growing system.

A Sinclair Community College student recently filed a patent for a mobile aeroponic system, a process for growing vegetables without soil. The goal is to make it accessible to neighborhoods lacking access to healthy and affordable food.

Leanora Royster-Ivy, a first year student in Sinclair’s agriculture program, designed the Mobile Aeroponic Vegetable Grow Systemand recently filed a patent for the design.

The idea is to make it more accessible for commercial and residential use in spaces that lack access to an outdoor garden. Aeroponic is similar to hydroponic, except upfront costs for a system tend to be expensive.

“Hydro farming is just once you get it going it's like, it works on autopilot but it's a very expensive start up.” Royster-Ivy said.

Leanora Royster-Ivy
The aeroponic mobile grow system designed Sinclair Community College student, Leanora Rosyter-Ivy

Aeroponics is not new, Royster-Ivy said, her design is simply meant to be a more inexpensive way of growing.

The unit is a PVC frame with two shelves, a tent over it and two bins with holes on the lids for the plants, and there’s also a water pump that mists the roots inside the bins every 20 minutes.

There's three sizes – the biggest can fit inside a closet and the smallest is about the size of a college dorm fridge. They can grow vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and leafy greens or herbs.

Royster-Ivy, who grew up in West Dayton, said this system could be a game changer for communities lacking access to fresh food.

“As I'm seeing people struggling to find food and watching empty shelves, I'm like, Wait a minute. You know, we don't have to depend on this. We can at least grow our own vegetables.” She said.

Royster Ivy, who retired from the U.S. Army, said she's always been interested in growing vegetables, she even was in the 4-H club when she was a kid. She was also helping neighbors build gardens too before she suffered a stroke summer of 2021.

She began vocational rehabilitation and shortly after enrolled in Sinclair's agronomy program, which she said helped her while she recovered.

“I didn't want to be bored and depressed. So my family was like, well, why don't you go back to school? And I'm like, well, the only thing I'm interested in is gardening.”

After starting a hydroponics class, she said she figured there must be a design that is more accessible to people and she came up with the mobile aeroponic system.

Through a class project turned business, Royster-Ivy said she wants to focus in communities like West Dayton. She describes her design as a form of independence for those communities.

She’s now looking for capital to bring her design to large scale production under her business, Urban Agriculture Innovations LLC.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. 

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming

Email: afigueroa@wyso.org
Phone: 937-917-5943