Aquaponics

— What is aquaponics? —
Aquaponics is a type of growing that combines two traditional farming systems – aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaponics attempts to create a closed loop symbiotic system by utilizing the waste stream from aquaculture as the nutrient input for hydroponics.

— What does this mean? —
The synthesis of two traditional farming systems has created an entirely new way to grow.

Aquaculture is a system that raises aquatic creatures such as shrimp, fish, and mollusks. These creatures are typically raised for the production of food. In traditional aquaculture systems, waste from farmed aquatic creatures must be cycled out in order to keep toxicity low. This is usually  accomplished by farming in naturally occurring flowing water, such as rivers, lakes, or the sea.

Hydroponic systems grow plants without soil. Terrestrial plants are grown with root mass exposed directly to nutrient solution, or in an inert media such as gravel which is bathed in solution.

In aquaponics systems, the waste of aquaculture provide the nutrients of hydroponics. Aquatic animal waste is broken down by nitrifying bacteria into nitrites and then into nitrates which provide nitrogen, one of the three macronutrients plants need to grow. Because aquaculture waste is consumed by the hydroponic part of the system a closed loop is created, meaning a much smaller volume of water can be used by circulating water between plants and animal holding tanks. Scale can range from small home sized tanks to large industrial warehouse systems, depending on the intended application.

— Our Research —
Our lab is studying each component of aquaponic systems in order to understand their interplay and interdependence – water composition, growing medium, aquatic creatures, plants, nutrient input, and bacteria.

Our current emphasis –
The role of nitrifying bacteria in the metabolism of an experimental compound and the impact this has on growth and development of aquaponic bacteria, basil, and hemp; as well as the impacts this has on nutrient metabolism and uptake in these plants.

Our current research team –
Amanda Fullard
• The impact of sprayed compound on basil plants. 
• Developing a method to integrate mycorrhizae into aquaponic systems.

Shawna Overby
• The impact of compound on bacterial growth and development in aquaponic systems.

Sedona Sargent
• The impact of sprayed compound on basil in aquaponic systems.

Andrew Watson
• The impact of sprayed compound on hemp plants in aquaponic systems.

— Our Mission —
——We want to make science more accessible to students through aquaponics. Explain how.

——Talk about teaching, using aquaponics as a model for exploring scientific method.

——Goals of our experimental research in application to conservation efforts.