Jack Ikard ’16 may dream up some crazy inventions, but at least one of them looks like it’s got legs — or fins, as the case may be.

An entrepreneur and a committed environmentalist, 20-year-old Ikard is trying to get his product AquaSprouts to market. He’s learned about patents, trademarks, LLCs, manufacturing and how to talk to investors at trade shows — on top of studying for his Communication degree.

As a high-school student, Ikard built his first aquaponics system out of Tupperware bins in his backyard. (Aquaponics uses fish waste to grow plants. Humans feed the fish, and the system converts the waste into nutrients to feed the plants.) Most aquaponics systems take up a lot of space outdoors, but Ikard envisioned something that could be used in households or at schools. 

There were a few smaller kits available for purchase, but they were expensive, so Ikard set out to design his own. Ikard’s invention, AquaSprouts, sits on top of an ordinary 10-gallon aquarium and is capable of growing lettuce, broccoli and onions. He made a few units by hand and started selling them in local shops, such as The Great Outdoors, a garden-supply store across from St. Edward’s on South Congress Avenue.

In Summer 2013, Ikard had an ambitious idea: make aquaponics easy and affordable for ordinary people by mass-producing AquaSprouts. To do so, he worked with a local firm to adapt the design for mass production. Now he’s working to secure funding to pay for the production.  

The AquaSprouts team includes web developer Jake Lane ’14, as well as Ikard’s business partner, Shannon Crow ’16, a Global Studies major who has traveled to Argentina, Costa Rica and Alaska to study aquaponics. Professors and classmates have connected him with investors and opportunities to present at the Austin Startup Crawl during SXSW and other events. 

In April, he and his team turned to Kickstarter for help. While they didn’t hit their $100,000 goal, Ikard considers the effort a success: AquaSprouts attracted the national and international attention that might just help them take the next step.  

— Lauren Liebowitz