Appalachian student and alumnus work to combat local hunger problems

Chelsey Fisher

To help the homeless community in Boone and in surrounding areas, a current student and alumnus are working to make their aquaponics-based project, called Aquaseng, a reality.

Aquaseng, a sustainable food production system, will provide farmers markets, local restaurants, the Hospitality House and the surrounding county homeless shelters with fresh, locally produced tilapia, fruits and vegetables.

“We wanted to give our fruits and vegetable to the Hospitality House,” university alumnus Danny Alcorn said. “We wanted to help them reduce their food budget.”

Senior finance and banking major Eric McTeir presented their project, at the first North Carolina Social Business Conference at North Carolina A&T State University Sept. 27.

The conference challenged college student teams from across North Carolina were to develop business solutions to pressing local and state issues, according to northcarolina.edu.

Although McTeir and Alcorn did not make it to the final round of the competition, they still want to move forward with their project.

Alcorn is now “ironing out” the details of the plan, he said.

McTeir served as the financial analyst to determine what kind of plant to be growing to make a profit.

“It fully has potential to be profitable,” he said.

The majority of the profit for the project comes from ginseng sales, which allows the remainder of the produce and fish to be sold at “competitive” prices or donated, Alcorn said.

Tom Will, one of McTeir’s professors at the time, mentioned the revenue possibilities of ginseng, which is in high-demand in China, McTeir said.

Ginseng would grow twice as fast and be more potent if grown using aquaponics, Alcorn said.

The initial cost of the project is estimated at $300,000 for land and construction, Alcorn said.

Reoccurring expenses are estimated at $60,000 to $80,000 a year.

Within the next month, Alcorn said he hopes to have a rough draft ready.

 

Story: KELLI STRAKA, News Reporter