Integrating Traditional Foods with Aquaponics in the Desert Southwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,972.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Aaron Cardona
Arevalos Farm

Information Products


  • Animals: fish


  • Crop Production: organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Energy: solar energy
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change


    Aaron Cardona set out to grow tilapia and traditional Mexican greens in a greenhouse using an integrated aquaponics system powered by solar energy in the Chihuahuan Desert of Southeastern Arizona. In a rural area of very conservative and traditional farming, the project looked to test the viability of aquaponics in the area, introduce a fresh water fish in the desert, and provide two water heavy crops, berros (watercress) and verdolagas (purslane), traditionally eaten by the Hispanic population of the area. It also looked to build a more economically viable system that could be replicated by the local low-income population of the area or by those looking to utilize space efficiently in their greenhouse while utilizing renewable energy to fuel the system.

    Project objectives:

    There were five objectives for the project: 

    *explore the viability of aquaponics in the Desert Southwest;
    *increase the availability of traditional foods locally;
    *construct a more economically viable aquaponics system;
    *make a greenhouse operation truly sustainable by using solar energy;
    *serve as an example of sustainable agriculture for the local agriculture community.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.