The greenhouse is approximately 24' x 32'. It is home to an
aquaponics system lead by over 2,000 tilapia. Many plants are
part of the system including several varieties of lettuce and
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the integration of aquaculture and hydroponics in
a recirculating "closed water loop" cycle. The fish effluent (or
fish waste) accumulated in the water as a byproduct of an
aquaculture system is collected and channeled to hydroponic
grow beds where the nutrient rich fish waste (toxic to fish but
rich in nitrogen and other byproducts to plants) fertilizes the
planted grow beds. This waste is referred to as "effluent" or
"emulsion". The planted grow beds in turn digest the emulsion,
reducing or eliminating the toxicity before it is returned to the
fish tanks clean and recycled. Examples of aquaponic systems
range from small 10 gallon aquariums to large commercial
The aquaponic concept (using fish emulsion for plant
fertilization) is not new to civilization, and can be traced back to
early Asian and South American horticultural civilizations.
However, the modern application of aquaponics can best be
linked to the New Alchemy Institute in the 1970's, where
researchers experimented with bioshelters and wastewater
management via crop production. This pursuit of what was to
become the permaculture movement inspired likeminded
researchers to advance the concept of fish effluent as fertilizer
for crop production. In 1986, North Carolina State University
graduate student, Mark McMurtry, along with professor Doug
Sanders created the first known closed loop aquaponic system
(called an aqua-vegeculture system) that channeled Tilapia
effluent into sand planted tomato beds. In the early 1990's, two
distinct aquaponic systems emerged;1)Deep Water or Green
Water Culture set up at the University of the Virgin Islands
under the guidance of Dr. James Rakocy and; 2) Ebb and Flow
production pioneered by Tom Speraneo of S&S Aquafarms in
West Plains, Missouri.
The unique advantages of aquaponic systems are: 1.
conservation through constant water reuse and recycling. 2.
organic fertilization of plants with natural fish emulsion 3. the
elimination of solid waste disposal from intensive aquaculture 4.
the reduction of needed cropland to produce like crops 5. the
overall reduction of environmental footprint for crop production.