JCSU to Install Aquaponic System in Sustainability Village

Natural Environment Food, Health and Wellness Waste Prevention and Recycling Water Management

As part of Johnson C. Smith University’s Sustainability Village concept, the aquaponic system will be located in a greenhouse next to the University’s community garden currently under construction. When complete, the Sustainability Village will have garden plots, a composting area, two green houses, an aquaponic system and seating/picnic areas, among other amenities.

Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system combining recirculation of aquaculture (raising fish in tanks) and hydroponics (growing plants in water). In aquaponic systems, plants and fish are together in one integrated system. The water from the fish tank is pumped in a container where the roots of the plants, submerged in the pumped water, take in the nutrients from the fish waste. No fertilizer is needed for the plants. The water then flows back to the fish tank. The fish are fed with natural fish food on a daily basis, and the water temperature is monitored regularly. Water to the fish tank is added only when necessary. The fish waste provides a food source for the growing plants, and the plants provide a natural filter for the water the fish live in. This forms a symbiotic relationship where by the plants clean the water for the fish, and the fish provide the nutrients for plant growth, which creates a sustainable ecosystem where both plants and fish can thrive.

According to studies on aquaponic systems, they:

  • use less than two percent of the water used in traditional farming
  • are energy efficient
  • have eight to 10 times more vegetable production in the same area and time
  • are pure, clean and natural

The aquaponic system for the University’s Sustainability Village is planned to raise about 200 pounds of tilapia fish a year, with a significant amount of organic green vegetable. Tilapia are known for their ability to adapt to varying water temperatures. However, perch and prawns have been known to thrive in aquaponic systems as well. A variety of lettuce and herbs are planned for this system, and other crops such as cucumber, tomatoes, cabbage and other leafy vegetables will be grown in the aquaponic system.

The organic vegetables and fish from the University’s aquaponic system will be sent to local area food banks. This system could be a model for producing organic green vegetables and fish with minimal start-up cost and easy-to-assemble equipment.