Aquaponics in STEM Education

By Julie Flegal-Smallwood

According to Economic Modeling Specialists International (2017), STEM jobs will grow 13% between 2017 and 2027, while other career options will grow 9%. In addition, STEM jobs have a median salary of almost twice that of non-STEM jobs. The majority of STEM careers require at least some college, and most students, regardless of level, consider math, science, and other similar classes to be the hardest and most challenging. At the college level, this is often the reason many of my students are ready to graduate but still need to fulfill a college-level mathematics requirement. This is particularly true for low-income, minority, underprepared, or first generation college students.

 Aquaponics continues to be a content area which easily blends many aspects of STEM, and can turn “I can’t” attitudes into “I can”.  It allows students to be engaged in a real-world, important application of STEM. Redlands Community College in El Reno, OK has a robust Aquaponics program associated with two degrees  and a certificate program related to Agricultural Sustainability.

 Last year, I had a non-traditional (in almost every sense of the word) student who sat on the back row the first night of class, and looked as if he might bolt out the door at our break time. As a 36-year old Marine veteran, who also happened to be Native American and a first generation college student, Jason was dubious. He took the class only because he needed a 4-hour class to round out his schedule, and didn’t think it would have much “science and math stuff”.

With each class period he became more engaged, and by midterm asked if he could design a system for his home as his research requirement. Late at night, I would get text messages with pictures of the welding he had been doing or some tanks he had found to use in his homegrown approach. Our schedule included Saturday lab days and field trips, and he asked to bring his wife and children so they

 could learn more about his new passion. By the time we reached fish dissection, his 9-year old daughter was fixture in the class as well.

A year later, his life is much different. Instead of wondering if he could complete community college, he has upped his goals and wants to get a graduate degree in Microbiology or Chemistry, and hopes to work in the Aquaponics industry. In the meantime, he has three systems at home, is working on another one, and is a permanent volunteer in our greenhouse. He credits aquaponics at helping him break through significant PTSD issues, giving him a goal, and passing on some excitement to his five children, three of whom are girls.

 

We  have a STEM Track at this year conference. Check out our STEM Education Conference Discount.

Aquaponics Across Connecticut!

The Putting Up Shoots Conference features tours of four sites across the great state of Connecticut.

Guests will get a first-hand look at all angles of aquaponics: commercial, food safety, community, research, and STEM education.

Tours will inform afternoon sessions and team-building. We will identify ways that Connecticut growers are breaking down barriers and growing more with aquaponics, and how we can all apply these lessons.

Check out the Putting Up Shoots Conference Homepage for ticket info.

Also check out the draft Putting Up Shoots Schedule.

Email community@aquaponicsassociation.org for questions.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

Yemi Amu: Aquaponics Design for Small-Scale Production

From city lots to classrooms, aquaponics is a good fit for any urban space, no matter the size. Yemi Amu, a New York City aquaponics professional with over a decade of farming experience, shares in this talk practical design considerations and best practices for creating aquaponics systems in unconventional spaces. Yemi’s guidelines for design, building, materials and plant selection will benefit those interested in growing a diverse selection of fish and crops in small spaces or on a limited budget.

In this talk participants will learn:

  • How to design for your space
  • Designing systems for a purpose (such as production or education)
  • Designing aquaponics systems for scalability
  • Designing systems for ease of use and functionality
  • Selecting materials for a budget
  • Appropriate fish and vegetable choices

About Oko Farms

Founded in 2012, Oko Farms is an aquaponics education, production and design/build company in Brooklyn. Oko Farms operates New York City’s largest and only outdoor aquaponics farm located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Every year, hundreds of visitors, ranging from public school students to government officials, learn about sustainability and ecosystems by visiting our unique and diverse aquaponics farm.

Our 2,500 square foot aquaponics system houses a variety of freshwater animals, including channel catfish, tilapia, crawfish, freshwater prawns, gold fish, koi, and bluegill. Plants cultivated include rice, lemongrass, mint, okra, peppers, spinach, beans, leeks, chamomile, tomatoes, eggplant, and many more. Our system also features a number of aquaponic farming methods, including deep water culture, ebb and flow, and nutrient film technique.

About Yemi Amu

Yemi Amu is the founder and farm manager of Oko Farms. She directs all of Oko Farms’ programs including education, design/build projects and community related activities. For the past decade, she has facilitated the creation and maintenance of over 20 edible spaces throughout NYC; created and implemented various culinary, nutrition and gardening programs for both youth and adults; and promotes aquaponics as a tool for environmental awareness and stewardship. Yemi has a M.A. in Health and Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She was awarded Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, Rising Star in NYC Food Policy (2016).

The Amazing Microbiology of Aquaponics

As our nation prepares to pass the once-every-5-year Farm Bill, let’s remember that aquaponic systems have been shown to have the same – if not more – quantity and diversity of rich microbiology as organic soil.

Check out our Aquaponics Food Web Report: Aquaponics food web aug 2018

Whether as a consumer, grower, policy-maker, or business owner, we all make decisions that affect
where and how our food is produced.

As we shape our new food system, one critical consideration is whether we retain access to high quality
fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly those grown sustainably. We must assess whether new growing methods like aquaponics can deliver fruits and vegetables grown from seed with the same symbiotic biological processes used by plants since the dawn of time.

Our report shows that aquaponic systems feature a vibrant, thriving community of happy little micro-critters!

 

 

People, Planet, and Profit – Tawnya Sawyer Speaker Spotlight

Tawnya Sawyer from the Aquaponic Source and Colorado Aquaponics will be at the upcoming Putting Up Shoots conference in Hartford, September 21-23.

Tawnya will host multiple discussions in the Commercial Aquaponics Learning Track. Here’ the first:

People, Planet, Profit – Aquaponics’ Triple Bottom Line

All savvy businesses leaders these days are focused on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Aquaponics is one of those premier “green-technologies” that has it all. Aquaponics is about feeding people nutritious food, providing job skills, and greater self reliance. It’s about the planet by reducing waste, and natural resource consumption, while mimicking a natural ecosystem. And if done correctly, aquaponics can also be a profitable endeavor if that is your goal. This session will create an open forum to discuss various different aquaponic projects here and around the world which have achieved the triple bottom line and how others can use those models to build their own aquaponic venture.

Tawnya’s community forum engages thousands of home hobbyist, schools and farmers all over the world. We will share their success stories as well as their toughest tragedies in an attempt to ensure that your aquaponics system will flourish. The more you know, the more you grow.

Get your tix today!

 

You Built It – Now What!?

Tawnya Sawyer from the Aquaponic Source and Colorado Aquaponics will be at the upcoming Putting Up Shoots conference in Hartford, September 21-23.

There is so much excitement around designing and building an aquaponic system. But, once you have it all built, now what? From cycling to harvesting and everything in between, the system depends on you. Tawnya’s session will discuss the most important aspects of managing and optimizing your aquaponic system, from day to day operations, preventative practices and avoiding common mistakes.

Topics include:

  • Cycling and bacteria management;
  • Source water and water quality;
  • Solids management and mineralization;
  • Keeping your fish healthy and happy;
  • Selecting and growing abundant crops; and
  • Pest prevention and recovery.

Get your Putting Up Shoots Tickets today!

Check out Tawnya’s other discussion: People, Planet, Profit – Aquaponic’s Triple Bottom Line

STEM & Community Scholarship Drive

This year, just as every year, the Association Board is deluged with requests from amazing growers that would love to attend the annual conference but don’t have the financial means.

But we need all growers represented to break down barriers and grow more of our food with aquaponics. These growers are on the front lines, often making a difference with aquaponics in the most difficult circumstances.

Therefore, we are seeking funders to sponsor an even more affordable set of tickets for STEM and Community growers.

If you or someone you know are willing to sponsor tickets for teachers, students, or non-profit growers, head here for more information: STEM & Community Scholarship Drive.

Speaker Spotlight: Chris Williams, Community Aquaponics Track

 

“Opportunities and Limitations in Sustaining Community-Driven Aquaponics Operations”

Chris completed his Master of Science in Environment and Natural Resources Management at the University of Iceland in 2017.  His thesis, entitled “A Viability Assessment of Commercial Aquaponics Systems in Iceland”, was completed under Icelandic aquaponics professors and researchers Ragnheidur Thorarinsdottir and Magnus Thor Torfason.  Chris’ experience includes both aquaponics and hydroponics, as well as system automation using raspberry pi technology.  Chris presented portions of his work at a 2017 COST conference, hosted by the Europeanframework supporting trans-national cooperation among researchers, engineers and scholars across Europe.

Chris is from Columbus, OH. He received his undergraduate degree in 2010.  Since 2012 he has been working with local startups and small-scale operations designing and fabricating aquaponic, hydroponic, and aeroponic systems. Chris had spent 2013-2015 teaching English in China at Hainan University. He has successfully completed aquaponics training through the European COST Scientific Network and has aquaponics research manuscripts under peer-review for publication. Currently, Chris is working freelance for consultation with regards to aquaponics production.

If you want to see and speak to Chris make sure you
complete your registration for the conference today!

300 Aquaponic Signatures to Congress

 

Read the Aquaponics 2018 Farm Bill Letter Here

The Aquaponics Association today published a letter asking Congress to support aquaponics and other sustainable growing methods in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Senate draft of the Farm Bill includes provisions that benefit aquaponic growers that are not included in the House version. (Read the Aquaponics Senate Farm Bill Fact Sheet).

The two chambers must reconcile the two versions into a final draft.

Over 300 aquaponic growers signed the letter asking the Senate and House Agriculture Committees to ensure that the final bill includes the Senate’s provisions for aquaponics.