“Wait the plants grow in fish poop?”
“Yeah”, I said, “Couldn’t have put it more elegantly myself”. It’s always a great moment in the classroom when it dawns on the kids what’s the driver behind any aquaponics systems. As those of us familiar with the Aquaponics Trifecta know, first the fish produce ammonia waste, or as the kids these days say fish poop. Second, beneficial bacteria in our system convert this ammonia into nitrite, and then nitrate. The plants then take this nitrate up through their roots as nutrition. In turn, the water gets filtered and it returns clean to the fish tank. That’s the gist of it, there’s more that goes into aquaponics than that but at the end of the day, that’s the magic. Fish provide a source for fertilizer and in turn for that fertilizer plants clean the water.
On day one we keep it simple as the kids are here to get their hands dirty or wet as the case may be. We introduce the concept of aquaponics and give them a brief overview of how aquaponics and other similar farming methods are likely to be the future of farming and food production. We show them a few examples of large scale production from our farms and clients before we break out and go over their system.
I get to put a fish in!?!?!
“Of course, these are your fish after all.” Seeing students eyes light up when they learn they get to actually interact with this fancy system never gets old. The best part of working with a new school is the day when we bring in the fish and plants. It gets every kid out of their chair, no matter the age, to see what they’re going to be caring for over the rest of the semester. It also creates instant buy-in as every day the kids will be checking in on the fish and inevitably checking in on the system as a result.
Shouldn’t the light be white?
The aGarden is a great system for schools because we have an adjustable spectrum LED light for the plants. The adjustable spectrum always creates a conversation point about light cycles, what plants need in terms of light, and how different plants will benefit from different settings. For this system, they will be growing greens and therefore we set them up with a blue dominated light spectrum. Over the course of the year, they will be experimenting with their lights to see if they can find a setting that improves plant yields. It’s experiments like this that not only add value to the classroom experience, but also to our industry as a whole. Aquaponics is such a new style of growing that there isn’t a lot of research to go off of so any experiments that our schools are running are valuable insights that the whole industry can benefit from. We’re all at the forefront of this new age of farming and schools will be a large contributor to advancing this industry.
Did you go to school for this?
Inevitably at some point we’ll get the question of if we studied this in college. While I highly valued my college education the reality is that I didn’t have any formal training in business or in aquaponics farming. Higher education can be incredibly valuable and in some careers pivotal to becoming a professional. However, I like to highlight that college is not the only path to success one can follow. Aquaponics and our experience is a great example of one possible alternative to the traditional college route and gives kids who think college might be for them an idea of what that non-college path may look like. In addition, aquaponics is a hands-on learning tool that engages students who may not be getting the most out of a traditional lesson formats. It’s a powerful way to make sure that no student is falling between the cracks in the classroom. In order for an aquaponics project to be successful, all the students need to understand the science and biology behind the system to keep it healthy.
Every school and every classroom is unique and the success of any program is dependent on having a great relationship with your service provider. We have an intimate relationship with all or teachers and schools to ensure the success of every program. We work exclusively with CT schools because we value those relationships and value the ability to work with our clients in person.
If you are a CT based educator and would like to discuss starting an aquaponics project with your school drop us a line in the chat box to the right, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 860-531-2782.