Speaker Spotlight: Officer Michael McLeon

“The Michael Unit” started with a bathtub and solo cups and through trial and error has developed low-cost commercial aquaponic systems from used and recycled parts. From the development of this system the Michael Unit Field Force went on to win State Grand Champion in the “Herb Behind Bars” competition as well as developed community outreach programs that has helped over 800 families in need and wish to share the experiences and knowledge they have gained through developing an aquaponics program in a correctional environment.

The long term goal is to grow many salads every week within the walls of prisons across the US with aquaponics. Just another example of how aquaponics is transforming our food economy!

Get your Putting Up Shoots tickets today! — http://bit.ly/2NZ4WTV

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).

Location Proposal

2019 Conference Location Survey

KSU / Frankfort, KY

Transportation: 30 minutes from Bluegrass Airport (Lexington; LEX) Airport; 75 minutes from Greater Cincinnati – Northern Kentucky Int’l Airport (CVG); 90 minutes from Cincinnati, OH. 60 minute drive from Louisville airport (SDF)

Venue: Hotel / Conference Center near Kentucky State University. KSU research farm http://organic.kysu.edu/Facilities.shtml. Venue could be offered at no cost and approximately 15 minute drive from hotels in Frankfort – possibly could work out a hotel shuttle or KSU has 3-4, 12 passenger vans that could be used for transport. It has a capacity of 600 people, has plenty of parking, and room for vendors.

Tours / Collaborations:

Kentucky State University (Frankfort, KY): indoor aquaponics research systems, saltwater aquaponics research, a 30’ x 70’ greenhouse, a 10,000sq foot recirculating aquaculture research building.

FoodChain (Lexington KY):  a not-for-profit sustainable aquaponics demonstration and teaching facility; located about 35 minutes east of Frankfort, 75 minutes from Cincinnati; located in the same building as a restaurant and brewery.

Aqua-Fresh Farms (Mt. Washington KY): a commercial aquaponics facility about 50 minutes west of Frankfort, 90 minutes from Cincinnati, and 90 minutes from Lexington (not confirmed)

Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, STEM Teaching and Research Greenhouse (NE Cincinnati): indoor STEM teaching and research greenhouse, with both aquaponics and hydroponics; 2 hours from Lexington / Frankfort area.

Setting:  Frankfort, KY is a small, quaint town that has 3 bourbon distilleries close by (Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses), wineries, and Keenland race track (Lexington) within a 30 minute drive. September: daytime highs in the 80’s early in the month, and low to mid 70’s later in the month. There is also a potential of receiving support from the Frankfort tourism department.

Tulsa, OK

Transportation: Tulsa is accessible via several major thoroughfares (interstate/turnpike), as well as by air at Tulsa International Airport.  Carriers serving Tulsa include: American, Delta, United, Southwest, Frontier, and Allegiant. 15-minute drive from Tulsa Airport, 2-hour drive from Oklahoma City Airport. Uber/Lyft/Taxi available everywhere. Most hotels provide free shuttle service. Bike Share and Lime scooters are available throughout the city center. Bus servive is available throughout the area.

Lodging: Over 100 hotels in or near the downtown area with room nights less than $100/night.

Venue: Four venue options are available.

Traditional Hotel with Conference Space – 60 hotels in the immediate area have sufficient room and conference space

Convention Center – Tulsa has a 300,000sf downtown conference and convention center which host events of all sizes

Casino – Three full-service casinos with conference space provide a cost effective hosting option.

Area Colleges – Two area colleges have expressed interest in hosting the event


Native Oklahoma Aquaponics Harvest – owned and operated by Richard Tyler, NOAH was created when it was apparent hungry families were living without fresh food. The 10,000 sqf  complex was constructed to address the need for quality food in an area which is dominantly Native American. It features an 8000 sqf greenhouse and is 1700 sqf store, which provides the ability to grow and provide pounds of lettuce, spinach, kale, grains, tomatoes and fish to those who need it. In addition to directly providing food, discharge water is given to other local farms for their food crops and hay.

Sooner State Wellness – a short drive from Tulsa, is the 12,000 sqf state-of-the-art facility owned by Sooner State Wellness. With the dedication to providing high quality, organically grown, medical cannabis, the facility uses “room in room” technology, monitored climate and moisture control, and high end LED lights. With dedicated space for germination, initial grow, and grow out, the facility also has a nursery dedicated to cloning.

Eastern Oklahoma State College – EOSC has a 3000 sqf commercial greenhouse used for horticulture classes, community plant sales, industrial hemp, and food production.

New Leaf – New Leaf is a facility for adults with special needs, and provides assistance in lifw skill acquisition, including aquaponic farming.

Educational Partners – Several colleges, K-12 schools and FFA programs in the area have aquaponic programs.

Setting: Tulsa, OK is the second largest city in Oklahoma, with a population over 400,000. Aquaponics is growing in popularity and practice in the Central U.S. with an upswing of individual, commercial, and institutional practitioners.  In June 2018, Oklahoma approved medical marijuana with no caps on the number of commercial or individual growers, further inciting the need and interest for aquaponics as a sustainable growing method.  At this opportune time, there is a growing audience and interest within the state and in nearby states such as Missouri and Texas.

Oklahoma is one of the cheapest states to visit due to affordable lodging and food prices associated with its national ranking as the third cheapest state in which to live. Temperatures are typically mild in October and November, with November 1 averaging 57 degrees.

Things to do in the Tulsa area: Three major casinos;  The Gathering Place, a 100-acre riverfront park with recreation activities; breweries; an architecture tour; the Philbrook Museum; and the Oklahoma Aquarium.

Las Vegas / Henderson, NV

Transportation:  McCarran International Airport is centrally located and offers non-stop flights from major U.S. cities like:  New York, Dallas, Orlando, Portland, Denver, San Diego, Chicago, Hartford, and Cincinnati; as well as direct flights from over 20 international cities like London, Zurich, Frankfurt, Montreal, Toronto, Beijing, and Mexico City. The average flight cost can range from $150 round trip from Seattle or San Francisco and up. This can be mitigated if the flights are booked early enough.

Lodging: Hotel prices will range from $60.00 and up depending on the location and room block discounts.

Venue: Las Vegas is a major destination for conferences from around the world. They have held conference ranging from Indoor Ag to Aquaculture America just to name two that are close to home. They have also held conferences from start-ups to CES which is one of the biggest in the world. Las Vegas is prime for the Aquaponics Association Annual Conference because we have a multitude of venues that will allow us to keep the conference at a low cost to our members. We can be located in on or near the Las Vegas strip or as far away from it like in the city of Henderson or in Summerlin.

Tours / Collaborations:

Pur Produce, an aquaponic farm located just south of the Las Vegas Strip. Pur Produce supplies a few of the restaurants in the Valley.

Desert Bloom Eco Farm, which is owned by Association Treasurer Claudia Andracki is located an hour west of Las Vegas and has both indoor aquaponics and dirt farming. She would be happy to host a full morning tour or evening tour with lunch or dinner included.

Two academic institutions that could be involved are The College of Southern Nevada and UNLV.

Two other facilities that we could include in the tour schedule that are not aquaponics but are indoor farms. One is called Oasis Biotech and the other is Urban Seed. Each have proprietary equipment which they use to grow food in an urban environment.

Setting:  Las Vegas is a happening city and there are multiple things to do in the evening it is a city that never sleeps and therefore there is always something to do. From Concerts, Shows and amazing restaurants with cuisine from all over the world. Claudia has lived in Las Vegas for over 25 years and knows all the great places to hang out and that have the best Happy hours.

The Cities of Las Vegas and  Henderson are both excited to bring urban agriculture into our valley. We hope that by hosting the Aquaponics Conference in either one of the cities we could get assistance from the Las Vegas visitors bureau and the City of Henderson.

UC Davis / Sacramento California

Transportation: 15-minute drive from Sacramento Airport, 1.5-hour drive from Oakland or San Francisco Airports. Uber/Lyft/Taxi available everywhere.

Lodging: Over 100 hotels within a 30-minute drive. Several hotels located on campus or directly adjacent.

Venue: The UC Davis campus would serve as the conference venue. Presentations would take place within the Mondavi Center with a main hall with a capacity for 1,800 persons and break-out rooms with a capacity for 250 persons. Hands-on workshops to take place at the Center for Aquatic Biology & Aquaculture and the UC Davis Meat Lab. Food trucks, restaurants, and dining halls located throughout campus.


Tsar Nikolas Caviar/Bare Root Produce– 20+ Acre Smoked Sturgeon and Caviar farm, now with aquaponics. Tsar Nikolas has produced some of the worlds most awarded caviar and have recently opened a 24,000 sq ft aquaponic farm to utilize their effluent. Site complete with fish hatchery, grow-out, processing and smoke-house. We will sample all of the farms offerings.

The Fishery– One of California’s largest and most impressive aquaculture facilities, producing White Sturgeon, Black Bass, and Carp in recirculating systems.

UC Extension Specialists– Presentations and workshops from the extension specialists in aquaculture, integrated pest management, crop sciences etc.

UC Davis AP Research Greenhouse– A 3,000 sq ft facility dedicated to research and applications of decoupled aquaponic systems.

Setting: Davis, CA is a college town with breweries, restaurants, and music venues throughout. Septembers are sunny and warm so bring a hat and shorts! Davis is the most bike friendly city in America and has the Bicycle Hall of Fame. There is regular bus service throughout town. Explore campus by visiting our Arboretum, Student Farm, The Manetti Art Museum, farmer’s markets, or just say hi to some of the cows. Come enjoy local produce, meat, cheese, wine and beer in the California sun.

Please make your choice