Student fertiliser project won’t be stopped by covid, storms

Opunake High School students Jason Holmes and Brody Neilson with some of the seaweed fertiliser they made with fellow students. A donation from the Glass Packaging Forum helped pay for a shed which they use to bottle the fertiliser into donated glass bottles.

Covid supply chain issues and storm damage may have delayed a Opunake High School students’ seaweed fertiliser project, but it’s finally fully up and running.

The project, to make and sell garden seaweed fertiliser, was given a funding boost by the Glass Packaging Forum in 2021, to buy a shed for the students to bottle the fertiliser into donated glass bottles. However, covid delays meant the shed didn’t arrive until the end of the year by which time the summer holidays began, says Opunake High School learning support Pauline Sandford.

In the New Year work to put the shed together began, only for it to be damaged by a rainstorm. “Our year 12 boys built a new frame for it to reinforce it,” Pauline says.

The project is run by the students at the school, with the shed making the process of bottling the fertiliser easier, Pauline says. While the grant the school applied for was relatively small at $500 it has had a marked impact, she said.

Pauline explained the project began when the students went to the beach for a photography project and noticed how much seaweed was on the sand. “We collected some to make fertiliser for the school vegetable garden. We used it for a few months and noticed everything flourishing, so we decided to bottle the fertiliser to sell.”

Unfortunately, covid restrictions meant the school gala didn’t go ahead so they lost out on the chance to promote and sell their creation, but they were able to sell a few bottles to community members, Pauline says.

“It’s great to finally get the shed built and the project fully up and running,” she says.

Glass Packaging Forum Scheme Manager Dominic Salmon says the Forum was thrilled it could help the students with their innovative project which not only promotes organic fertiliser but glass bottle reuse.

“This is a wonderful grassroots project which, while small in scale, is connecting the school and its students to their community, reusing glass and promoting sustainable soil health,” Dominic says.