Freshly harvested lettuce (Photo provided by GrEau)


One of LEARN’s online students, Benjamin Collier, shares his experience with a school project developed this year by a group of students at Mecatina School in the du Littoral School Board.  We are so proud of Ben’s efforts (along with those of Chloe Anderson, Josh Boland, Brandon Leon, another online student, and teacher Chris Wong) and he was happy to write about their very  successful project which responds to a need in his small isolated community.  Ben wrote this post after harvesting on Friday.


In November, a small group of students, with the support of our science teacher, came together with the purpose to start our own business. Our group’s original goal was simply to enter the Quebec Entrepreneurial Contest 2014, but as the project grew, it started to become about much more than just the contest – and became a true business! After assessing the budget, limited resources and space, we eventually decided we would grow lettuce and herbs locally using a method called hydroponics.

Hydroponics is a different way of growing without soil. Products grown hydroponically are fresh and organic, pesticide free and herbicide free. Using this method, our community could be provided with cheaper, healthier, organic and, most importantly, fresh herbs and vegetables. This process of growing is quick and could be used all year round, even during our harsh winters. Due to Mecatina School being situated in La Tabatière, an isolated village on the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, fresh produce is very hard to acquire. Seeing this as an opportunity for a successful business, we teamed up to profit on the unavailability of fresh herbs and vegetables and to provide a useful service for our community at the same time.

Once the type of business was decided, we made a business plan, sought local support and distributors, constructed the growing units, planted and transplanted, created a logo and marketed our product. Within a couple of months we went from having a small closet filled with science supplies to a room that could produce an enormous amount of fresh foods within a small time period. When the setup finally began to run at full capacity, the harvests became extraordinary: with a 48 square foot growing space, students were able to grow up to 600 plants! Our weekly harvest was about 35 bags of lettuce, 10 bags of basil, 15 bags of chives, and 15 bags of dill. Talk about production!

It’s now the end of May and although we didn’t win the contest we applied for I believe that we received things more important than the prize of the competition: we received knowledge, respect, and recognition. When this project began I knew very little about hydroponics, wiring, and the full setup in general. After we began research and working as a team, I learned many things quickly that will stick with me for life. Not only did I receive new knowledge but also the respect of my friends, family, neighbours, and people across the province.  Whenever anyone hears about our current business they are usually amazed, and commend us on the ability to get such a project up and running.  The respect is probably my favourite aspect at this point. It makes me proud that we as a group were able to achieve so much, and that people are glad we did. The last important thing we received is recognition outside our community. For such a small area, that’s something that’s pretty hard to do. Before GrEau, very few people knew what La Tabatière was and even fewer knew where it was located. Hopefully now with the variety of publicity we were able to achieve, people will know that big things really can come from small packages.

The GrEau Team: Teacher Chris Wong, Josh Boland, Benjamin Collier, Brandon Leon

The GrEau Team: Teacher Chris Wong, Josh Boland, Benjamin Collier, and Brandon Leon (missing from photo: Chloe Anderson)

Overall, I am just truly amazed how far we have come and just how supportive the people are for our business. It really does fill me with pride. Although I’m sure that people can make something much bigger and better with more resources, space, and time, it’s not the sheer size of our project but the effect that it has had on so many people. That effect, in turn, becomes compliments and admiration for us. Personally, no amount of money we could have received means more to me than what people are saying about us and to us, that’s priceless.

By Benjamin Collier


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