Aquaponics in STEM Breakout Discussions

The Aquaponics Association’s Putting Up Shoots conference in September, 2018 featured breakout discussion sessions for Aquaponics in STEM Education and for other sub-fields of aquaponics. These sessions allowed all conference participants to give input and discuss steps we can take together to advance aquaponics in our respective areas.

By Kevin Savage

In September 2012, I attended my first Aquaponics Association conference in Denver, CO.  I was new to aquaponics, and new to attempting to use aquaponics as a model for teaching science and agriculture in a high school setting.  The conference was a bit overwhelming with technical presentations, conversations during breaks and at meals, and networking with aquaponics practitioners (many of whom are now close friends).  I distinctly recall, however, that I met only one or two other individuals who were doing aquaponics in a secondary school setting.

At the 2013 Tucson conference, the number of educators and professional who were working with school had increased significantly, and by the 2016 and 2017 conferences (Austin, TX and Portland, OR), educators had dedicated presentation tracks to share with others how they were using aquaponics in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as college and university settings, to teach a myriad of science, agriculture, engineering, and mathematics principles.

In September 2018, members and friends of the Aquaponics Association gathered in Hartford, Connecticut for the Association’s “Putting Up Shoots” conference.  The “Shoots” conference included a STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) technical track each day for education-focused presentations.  Each day also include STEM-focused breakout sessions, where educators and those interested in adding aquaponics to a school or classroom had the opportunity to gather and discuss such topics as “How do I get my administration on board with aquaponics?”, “How do I incorporate aquaponics into my biology/chemistry/botany curriculum?”, and “Where do I find funding to cover the costs of starting aquaponics?”  Some questions were easily addressed, but many others remained open-ended or unanswered, reflecting both the challenges and the opportunities for educators with a passion for experiential learning through aquaponics.  The most exciting part of these breakout sessions was that over the three days of the conference, nearly 40 different individuals attended at least one of these sessions, and 25 individuals attended at least two of them!  The participation of members in aquaponics in education continues grow!

Significant outcomes of these breakout sessions included introductions and networking, creation of a STEM education email group, and a “handshake” agreement to work with the educators of the U.S. Aquaculture Society to develop a forum or outlet for educators to share ideas and lesson plans, and to have a community in which to ask questions or seek assistance.

STEM Education is a primary focus area for the 2018 and 2019 Board of Directors, with the goal of creating a STEM Education Working Group.  This working group will be composed of Association Members with a passion to see aquaponics education continue to grow, and a willingness to contribute to this growth.  More information on the creation of this working group will be sent out in the near future.

Kevin Savage teaches and grows at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Ohio, serves as Aquaponics Association Secretary, and leads the Association’s STEM initiative.

Photos from Putting Up Shoots

Aquaponics Can Revitalize Connecticut’s Economy

By Brian Filipowich, Eric Pedersen, and Spencer Curry

The loss of a solid manufacturing base has left Connecticut trapped with long-term, structural economic problems.

But there is an elegant solution: tap into the state’s technological pedigree, agricultural past, and unused infrastructure to manufacture something different – world-class produce and fish.

Companies like Trifecta Ecosystems in Meriden and Ideal Fish in Waterbury are pioneers of an entirely new industry: aquaponics, recirculating aquaculture, and controlled-environment growing.  Aquaponics is a method of growing fish and plants in a closed system in which nutrient-dense fish water provides nutrients for hydroponic systems that grow produce all year long.

Already, Trifecta Ecosystems in Meriden has a total capacity to feed 200 families their weekly veggies all year round, in addition to 600 lbs. of fish protein grown per year.  Trifecta also helps more than 20 schools and non-profit organizations from around the state grow food for themselves using aquaponics.

Ideal Fish has tapped into the Brass City’s robust industrial infrastructure that includes high-quality manufacturing space, electrical power, water, waste water treatment, and transportation infrastructure. From Cleveland to Detroit, aquaponic farms are springing up in old factories.

The most advanced aquaponic growers in the nation, like Superior Fresh of Wisconsin, are growing sushi-grade salmon and over ten thousand units of greens per day in multi-acre controlled-environment greenhouses.  These growers provide a vision for Connecticut’s future.

We can no longer rely on shipping our food thousands of miles. Mounting environmental challenges and the demand for local food will force us to grow with these new efficient methods.

And aside from the produce itself, there will be thousands of jobs in agriculture technology, equipment, and training.

Why doesn’t Connecticut become an Aquaponics Center of Excellence? It sits between New York City and Boston, the largest food market in the U.S. It has the untapped or underutilized physical infrastructure, academic resources, and manufacturing expertise.  With world-famous agricultural institutions like UConn Agriculture Extension and UConn’s new Hartford campus, could farming be the answer to Connecticut’s economic woes?

September 21-23, the national Aquaponics Association’s annual conference Putting Up Shoots will be at the Hartford Hilton. The world’s top aquaponics growers will be presenting their work and discussing the potential for aquaponics. This is a great opportunity for the state of Connecticut to invest in an entirely new industry. Click here for conference info: http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

Eric Pedersen, CEO
Ideal Fish, Waterbury, CT

Spencer Curry, CEO
Trifecta Ecosystems, Meriden, CT

Brian Filipowich, Chairman
Aquaponics Association, Washington, D.C.

Designing Aquaponic Systems for the Developing World

Speaker Spotlight: Phil Reasons, Aquasol International

Designing and operating an aquaponic system in Florida is not the same as in Togo, West Africa. Phil Reasons has spent years doing both. Internationally, Phil helps communities in Africa, Central America, Haiti, and elsewhere supplement their diets with aquaponics.

At this weekend’s Putting Up Shoots conference in Hartford, CT, Phil will be discussing how to design systems in challenging environments in the developing world.

Phil will also be leading a discussion session: “Cross-Cultural Partnerships in Aquaponics”.

We hope you can make it to the conference! Ticket info: http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

Vendor Spotlight: Skretting; the global leader in aquaculture feed

Skretting, the world’s largest producer of aquaculture feed, is one of the great companies joining us in the Putting Up Shoots Conference vendor showroom THIS WEEKEND in Hartford, CT.

Do you have a product or service you’d like displayed in front of hundreds of aquaponics-enthusiasts? We still have a few tables left. Check out our conference homepage for more info: http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

About Skretting: “Our mission is based on the challenge of feeding a global population that is forecast to reach 9.5 billion people by 2050. The fast growing world population, increased urbanisation, a growing middle class and changing diets will lead to a surge in demand for protein, especially in emerging markets. Our ambition is to contribute to meeting the rising food needs in a sustainable manner. We will do this by constantly seeking innovative ways to raise the efficiency and nutritional value of our products, the productivity of our activities and those of our customers, and to reduce the environmental impact of our value chains. Sustainability is in the nature of our business.”

Hope to see you at the conference!

Mr. Tilapia Goes to Washington

Did you know that Congress currently has aquaponics provisions on the chopping block?

The Farm Bill will soon be considered in Congress, it is passed only once every five years. Congress must act NOW to ensure the U.S. stays competitive in sustainable agriculture.

Negotiators are deciding within days what provisions to include in the final draft of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Senate Bill includes positive provisions for aquaponics, hydroponics, and other sustainable growing methods. The House’s version does not.

That’s why we just hand-delivered a copy of our Aquaponics Senate Farm Bill Fact Sheet along with our sign-on letter with over 300 aquaponic-signatures to every Member of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees.

YOU can help too! Now is a vital time to tell your Senators and Representative they should support aquaponics, hydroponics, and sustainable agriculture in the final draft.

Do you have 15 minutes to spare? Please take a few minutes to call or send a message!

 

Speaker Spotlight: Arvind Venkat

 

Arvind Venkat is Waterfarmers Canada’s Scientific Director overseeing the company’s technology, product and execution platform. He has been a noteworthy leader in the commercial Aquaponic space. Under his vision Waterfarmers have developed over half million square feet of commercial farming and continue to expand their reach. He has spent the last 5 years creating resilient design and operating procedures for large commercial farms for different climate and market environments. His contributions to nutrient stewardship, environmentally responsible design and farmer profitability modelling have been recognized as viable business formulas by investors and policy makers alike. Arvind works very closely with Murray Hallam of Practical Aquaponics and their newest project in the works is a walkthrough guide platform for new farmers for the first 6 months of operations. 

An Engineering and Management graduate from Kettering University, Michigan, Arvind started his career as an engineer at Bosch USA and quickly worked his way up to the Executive offices at National Aluminum at the age of 22. Arvind holds to his credit an MBA from MIT and 4 years of post graduate research at University of Toronto in the field of Renewable Energy. Outside the office, Arvind is a percussionist actively performing at top classical art venues around the world.  

Speaker Spotlight: Jose-Luis Isurza

ABSTRACT

Freshwater prawns have a high market value, short harvest cycle, and high market demand. Under the assumption that the waste of prawns (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) does not produce enough nutrients to supply their vegetative counterparts Ocimum basilicum (Genovese Basil), the supposed nutrient deficiency was supplemented using worm castings mixed with water to create a vermicompost solution. This solution was added to the systems in the amounts of 1% and 3% based on the aquaponics system water volume. The observation and data collection on plant growth, prawn growth, and water quality were measured every two weeks, every week, and every day, respectively. After 5 weeks of observation, no significant difference in plant growth or prawn growth was observed in both treatments.

BIO 

Jose-Luis Izursa is a lecturer and advisor in the Environmental Science and Technology department at the University of Maryland. He completed a post-doctoral program with the University of Florida, focusing his research on quantifying energy balances of biofuel feedstock production systems and their effect on greenhouse gases production. Prior to that, Dr. Izursa was the Director of science and research at Fundación Natura Bolivia, where part of his work focused on climate smart agriculture and sustainable food production, designing and utilizing innovative social markets techniques as payment for ecosystem services. In cooperation with the Sustainability Science Program at Harvard University, he was engaged in developing social games to study local leadership and the voluntary provision of public goods in rural communities in Bolivia.

He also worked as a program coordinator for Conservation International and a consultant for the World Wildlife Fund in Washington DC.  He received his Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences; his M.Sc. in Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology from the University of Maryland; his M.Sc. in Higher Education from the University Amazónica of Pando and has won a number of honors and awards including the Fulbright and the Russell E. Train Education for Nature Fellowships.

Sign up today to see Jose-Luis Isurza at our Putting Up Shoots Conference.

Speaker Spotlight; Todd Guerdat

Speaker Spotlight: Todd Guerdat
University of New Hampshire

Project OASIS: Optimizing Aquaponic Systems for Improved Sustainability

The new Agricultural Engineering research program at the University of New Hampshire has constructed three replicated greenhouses for farm-scale recirculating aquaponic research funded by the USDA and NH Sea Grant. This research is dedicated to developing optimized aquaponic systems, both coupled and decoupled, which are economically and environmentally sustainable. Our research focuses on water and waste treatment for improved nutrient utilization efficiency, the economics of integration, pest management, and food safety. With a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, we are researching multiple crops and fish species to address the needs of farmers, regulators, and customers alike.

We have developed a streamlined approach toward integrating hydroponic cropping systems with recirculating aquaculture and have been in development and operation at a large scale for almost two years, and we are continuing to grow. System layout and results to date will be presented.

Get your tickets today! https://aaasociation.wpengine.com/2018-conference/