Cleveland State Community College has implemented a year-round Aquaponics teaching lab in the Cleveland/Bradley Innovation Center for students in the Environmental Science and Wildlife Fisheries classes. Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture, or the combined culture of fish and plants in recirculating systems.
The lab will teach students and the community about alternative forms of agriculture. Agricultural lands are being lost due to expanding land development; therefore, aquaponics is an alternative industry for farmers and others interested in pursuing this industry.
The project involves tanks stocked with tilapia, blue gill, catfish, or a variety of other fish species and vegetables such as lettuce, herbs and peppers will grow in eight foot raft tanks from the nutrients in the water. According to Associate Professor Robert Brewer, the project also involves freshwater prawns, but they will be in a separate tank.
“Prawns will grow under the plants. They are cannibalistic, so you have to have at least one square foot of surface area for every prawn."
The lab will also provide students with service-learning opportunities to gain hands-on experience working with the fish and plants in the aquaponics lab. Students will receive stipends for working year round in the lab, feeding and harvesting fish and cultivating the vegetables. As part of the service-learning requirement, students will be asked to write reflection papers stating what they learned from the service-learning lab experience.
“The entire lab was built by students, stated Mr. Brewer. “You name it; they built it.”
Mr. Brewer continued, “We will be offering non-credit courses and workshops to the general public in the future on how to start your own aquaculture and hydroponics system.”
CSCC student Benjamin Branam, said, “I think this lab is a great idea. We have needed something like this for a long time. I am thinking of building one of these for myself, and this gives students a great large scale model to view.”
The lab will be sustained by selling the vegetables to the Campus Kitchen, the college cafeteria, and students will also sell the fish and vegetables through a farmer’s market.
For more information on the aquaponics lab, contact Mr. Brewer at 472-7141, ext. 342 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.