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

    Proposal summary:

    Arevalos Farm proposes to grow tilapia and greens traditional to the border region in a greenhouse, using an integrated aquaponic system powered by solar energy, in the Chihuahuan Desert of Southeastern Arizona. Aquaponics is currently being experimented with all around the U.S., but little has been done in the desert regions of the southwestern United States or in areas of low-income populations. Thus, the project looks to build a more economically viable aquaponic system for people of low-income and integrate two traditional greens of the border, verdolagas (purslane) and berros (watercress), while cooling the greenhouse from the harsh Arizona sun using pure solar energy.

    The construction of an aquaponic system will introduce a fresh water fish to an area with virtually no availability and conserve water on two heavy water crops, which will thrive together through their natural biological relationship. Additionally, because of the outrageous cost of pre-manufactured aquaponic systems, the project looks to build a more economically viable system and cut the high costs of electricity by using solar energy to run the aquaponic system and cool the greenhouse.

    Arevalos Farm is located in Double Adobe, Arizona, just 15 minutes away from the Mexican border in Cochise County, Arizona. The area is classified by the USDA as a "Food Desert," full of poverty and high rates of obesity and diabetes. The project will confront these problems head on by striving to build a more affordable aquaponic system, which can then be replicated by those of low income in the area and create economic opportunity. Furthermore, it will produce culturally relevant food as a means of re-instituting traditional food back into the diet of the local population on the border and, in the process, improve the health of the local community.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) To explore the viability of aquaponics in the Desert Southwest;

    2) To increase the availability of traditional foods locally;

    3) To construct a more economically viable aquaponics system;

    4) To make a greenhouse operation truly sustainable by using solar energy;

    5) To 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.