Aquaponics:addressing marine concerns, sparking career interest
According tothe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), doubling aquaculturein the United States could create over 50,000 jobs and a billion dollarindustry. Environmental science professor Dr. Mark Green’s class MS360–Aquaculture: Science and Methods might help to make that happen.
“Thewild-caught seafood industry is struggling,” says Green. “Many of the fishstocks are being harvested at an unsustainable rate and are literallydisappearing from the ocean.”
In MS 360,students maintained a variation of an aquaponics system—a combination of bothaquaculture (raising aquatic organisms in a controlled environment) andhydroponics (growing plants in water). A large, plastic fish tank housed theaquatic organisms—tilapia in MS 360’s case. A marine pump circulated water fromthe tank to trays of leafy greens. The water filtered through the plants untilit eventually returned, clean and filtered, to the fish tank.
The benefitsof the project are two-fold, says senior environmental science major ShradhaMiller ’14. “The fish waste provides nutrients, mainly nitrogen, to the plantsthat help them grow. And the plants maintain a healthy water quality balancefor the tilapia.”
NOAA reportsthat 91 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States originatesabroad—half of which is from aquaculture. As a result of imported seafood, theU.S. seafood trade deficit is currently valued at $11.2 billion.
“There’sopportunity for tremendous growth in the aquaculture industry,” says Green.“I’m a big proponent of sustainable aquaculture.”
Students aregetting the hands-on experience they need to both understand and operate anaquaculture operation. Some, like Miller, are even considering going intoaquaculture professionally.
“I’m thinking about starting an aquaculturebusiness some point after graduation,” she says. “It’s highly sustainable,takes stress off wild stocks, and produces a super fresh product. Not tomention how lucrative it can be if done properly.”