Recap of 2018 Hartford Aquaponic Tours

Recap of 2018 Hartford Aquaponic Tours

By Tawnya Sawyer      

Every year, aquaponic tours are a highlight of the Aquaponics Association Conference. This year’s Putting Up Shoots Conference in Hartford, CT included tours of three very different aquaponic systems: one hobby-homestead system growing into a commercial-scale farm, one community center with sustainability at the core, and one repurposed warehouse building with visions of creating the City that Feeds Itself.

Bigelow Brook Farm located at Rob Torcellini’s homestead has been a virtual community model for years. By sharing stories of construction, planting, harvesting, fish health, and many successes and failures, Rob has empowered people all over the planet with his aquaponic system. For years across the world wide web, we have grown with Rob in his geodesic dome. We have learned to install a window kit into a fish tank (scary at first to cut a big hole in a tank, but not really that difficult once you know the steps.) We have learned the do’s and don’ts of heating, and lots of other key steps in operating aquaponics. At the tour, Rob had the opportunity to showcase his new greenhouse nearing completion. He described the components of his filtration system, RaftMaster deep water culture structure, cool wireless sensor systems, and Growgrips. Rob plans to be a key part of the local food system, delivering food and offering tours and education within the surrounding community. We look forward to many more of Rob’s videos and seeing his new commercial greenhouse up and growing.

Keney Park Sustainability Project on Saturday was a great representation of blending soil gardening and indoor greenhouse aquaponic growing, with so much more. This project really took “community” to the next level with its urban park land and environmental stewardship, children and family programs, job skills training, nutrition, health and wellness, farm stands and a mobile market. Herb Virgo who led the tours and leads the charge in the program, really shined the light on the importance and value of community programs like this. The greenhouses were home to goldfish and koi, while they were growing a variety of leafy greens in towers, NFT (nutrient film technique), and media beds. The abundance continued outdoors where there were raised gardens, mushroom production, bees, and lots of open space for community education and engagement. Keney Park is a wonderful inspiration to many who see the vision of urban farming and community engagement in their home town.

Trifecta EcoSystems was the final tour. Located in an older repurposed warehouse building, this aquaponic system highlights indoor crop production rivaling an outdoor commercial farm. As their mission states, “With aquaponics, we’re empowering communities to grow their own food while inspiring future generations to play an active role in our world’s food system.” The Trifecta team lives this community model working to revitalize the area and promote “The City that Feeds Itself”. Trifecta uses deep water culture to produce a variety of cooking and salad greens, which are delivered to local restaurants, and farmers markets. They also provide educational programs and innovate through research and development. While indoor growing has seen its share of challenges, Trifecta is blazing the trail for growing food in an otherwise barren warehouse space. We need more models like Trifecta’s for local food production.

Where we will be in 2019!?

We are looking forward to the 2019 Aquaponic Association Conference and more exciting aquaponic tour locations. Association Members, please make sure to participate in the current survey (via email) so that your voice can be heard in where you think the conference should be hosted in September, 2019!

Tawnya Sawyer is the Manager of Flourish Farm (CO) and serves on the Aquaponics Association Board of Governors

 

Some more tour photos:

Fish at Bigelow Brook Farm
Plants in Bigelow Brook Farm Geodesic Dome
Keney Park Sustainability Project
Trifecta Ecosystems, aquaponics in an old factory
Trifecta Ecosystems
Keney Park Sustainability Project

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.

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; 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/

YOU are the next great aqua-pioneer!

The Putting Up Shoots conference is coming up this September 21-23 in Hartford, CT.

Last year in Portland, Oregon we caught two aquaponic trail-blazers – Murray Hallam and Nick Savidov – having a personal chat… probably about nitrification rates or Oreochromis niloticus.

Murray and Nick are back again this year, but we need YOU to make the conference truly special. We need a wide range of engaging sessions from all perspectives to make the most impact.

Click here to Submit a Presentation Proposal.

We have four contiguous learning tracks so there is room for everybody to share their aquaponics knowledge: Commercial Aquaponics; Community Aquaponics; STEM Aquaponics, and Aquaponics Research & Food Safety.

ALL digital presentations will be shared electronically to conference attendees and Association members, so your presentation will be put to good use and become part of our digital archive.

We’d love to learn from you this September!