LUKE KIRKEBY / Stuff
Charla Stretch of Vitanic, Brooklyn Tukaki, Ayush Menon and Bree Williams-Healey with their portable vegetable garden.
When you imagine a school desk, vegetables are unlikely to come to mind.
But, at Tokoroa High School, that’s exactly what you’ll find.
After seeing disused school benches gathering dust, a group of 16-year-olds took to thinking and decided to turn them into portable vegetable gardens.
The business studies students, who call themselves Vitanic, are taking part in the Junior Achievement 2021 program and, with searing presales, they have already made the cut for the Rotorua / TaupÅ / Tokoroa regional final in October.
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Chief Executive Charla Stretch said they came up with the idea after noting strong demand for the product during the 2020 nationwide lockdown while also wanting to create something sustainable.
âThe idea was to look at an issue in the community that we could fix thenâ¦ we decided to focus on the seven week 2020 lockdown and how hard it was to get fresh produce and keep busy. “she said.
âWe thought that a portable vegetable garden would be the perfect solution and, because we want to help our community while helping our environment, we thought recycling would be a good way to do it.
âAfter looking around our school for what we could use, we found some old damaged desks that we decided to use for the metal frame of the portable gardens. ”
Charla said they then created wooden boxes to fit the frames, boxes that can be taken out and tucked inside during winter conditions, and planted them with lettuce, spinach, kale, spring onions, herbs and radishes.
âWe researched what is going on in the gardens and we realized that we could compost the food scraps from the school meals that we recently receive and thus, we would tick the kaitiakitanga sustainability box,â he said. she declared.
âWe created a few prototypes that we brought to our school gala and unexpectedly received pre-orders, which motivated us to continue and improve the idea.
“So far we’ve done 22.”
Production manager Ayush Menon said the improvements included lightening the wooden crates so that they are easier to move for the elderly.
âThe initial design did the job, but they were difficult to hold and quite heavy when filled with soil. So in the second design we made them less deep and instead of putting handles on top we put them on the side so that they are easier to hold. ” he said.
âPeople think it’s a great idea and it’s really accessible in their homes.
âFor the elderly and frail who still love to garden, we are also considering putting wheels on the front and rear of the frames. ”
CFO Bree Williams-Healey said the gardens were sold for $ 90 for a single and $ 135 for a double.
âThey come with the soil and the vegetables and people choose the vegetables they want in them,â she said.
“A lot of people said they walked past and couldn’t stop eating them.”
Charla said their goal was to advance to the national final.
âWe’ve worked really hard and tried really hard to market our product, so we feel pretty good about it,â she said.
For more information, visit Vitanicgardens on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org.