Posted by: Chip Small | August 9, 2013

Aquaponics research update

Several exciting developments to report in our aquaponics research.


Recent UST graduate Isaac Bergstrom presenting aquaponics research at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Minneapolis.

First, Isaac Bergstrom presented a poster at the Ecological Society of America meeting on the research we did this spring on nutrient efficiency in coupled vermicompost-aquaponics systems (where we attempt to answer the question: “How can we turn coffee grounds into tilapia and basil).


We found that vermicompost quality suffers a little bit when you harvest worms, but that the efficiency of converting nutrients from fish food into human food is much higher (especially for nitrogen!) in our experimental systems compared to traditional aquaculture.

Second, Isaac and Lauren Ruess have been worked this summer to get our new 600 gallon aquaponics system up and running.  The tomatos are going crazy.  Here’s what the grow beds currently look like (click on the image for a sneak peek at what’s happening below the surface).


Click on this photo for a peek at our tilapia.

This system is going to be used for student research in Dr. Amy Verhoeven’s “Plants, food, and medicine” course this fall.  We’re also using data from these experiments to help manage one of the world’s largest aquaponics systems, in Titanyen, Haiti, run by a Minnesota-based aid organization called Healing Haiti.  I’ll be traveling to Haiti from August 19-22 to learn more about that system (look for updates on the Sustain Blog!).

Finally, Young Scholars research grant recipient Louis Sand has been doing something kind of like aquaponics this summer.  The Twin Cities Metro area has more than its share of lakes suffering from nutrient pollution.  We wondered if, instead of growing fish to provide the nutrients for vegetables, would it be possible to use urban lake water to grow the plants?  If so, what kind of scale would be required to help clean up these lakes, and, importantly, would produce grown be safe to eat?


The peppers and eggplant in this photo are made up of Como Lake water.

The answer to the first question is “Yes!” as shown by the photo above.  We’ll soon have answers to the second two questions, and will be able to assess whether this crazy idea just might work.



  1. Reblogged this on Sustain.

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