Using Aquaponics with Renewable Energy Resources to Create Sustainable Food Systems while Reducing Nutrient, Energy, and Water Costs

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2010: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Matt Johnson
Sustain Pro Management
Harry Ako
University of Hawaii


  • Animals: fish


  • Animal Production: feed rations, mineral supplements
  • Crop Production: nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, solar energy
  • Production Systems: holistic management

    Proposal abstract:

    By combining traditional aquaculture and hydroponics, the waste products of each system nourishes the other. Effluent from the fish is circulated through the growing medium acting as a fertilizer for the lettuce. A biofilter and the lettuce acts as a filter for the water creating a non-toxic environment for the fish. This project will focus on maximizing the efficiency of the system by studying variations on system design and the effect of these variation of lettuce and fish production. Preliminary estimates have been made as to the biomass of fish eating and metabolizing a certain weight of feed daily and how this relates to the biomass of lettuce plants produced. By examining this point from several angles, better estimates will be obtained. This study will be done in conjunction with five identified producers that are either currently doing aquaculture, converting part of their hydroponics operations to aquaponics, or starting a new aquaponic system create a new production line. The study will also look at using renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic panels to supplement the energy requirements for running an aquaponic system. The five demonstrations will include 1)Hawaii Fish Company: the farm operations include a 25 tank aquaponics system that is run entirely off of gasoline power due to the fact the local electric company has not installed electrical lines at this remote site. This demonstration will focus on generating renewable energy to operate the water pump for the farm's aquaponics demonstration. 2)Mokuleia Farms: a family run aquafarm that has been in business for 20 years producing catfish, tilapia, and snakefish lThis demonstration will focus on using photovoltaic panels to power a water pump in the farm's aquaponic system. This will help demonstrate how a farm can use aquaponics and renewable energy to reduce their energy costs. 3)May's Wonder Garden ( a four acre hydroponic lettuce farm on the North Shore of Oahu, this farm is focusing on converting a portion of their hydroponic lettuce system into using aquaponics, helping to reduce the farm's fertilizer and energy costs. 4)Palaka Moon Farm: These farmer's have taken their products and products from neighboring farmer to open a restaurant. This farm's demonstration will focus on constructing an aquaponics system to grow enough lettuce and fish to supply the farm's restaurant . The lettuce and fish will used in the restaurant's fish tacos. 5)Ho Farms ( Ho Farms is one of the largest tomato, and Japanese cucumber farms in the State, this aquaponics demonstration will focus on producing lettuce and fish as a way to diversity the available crops from the farm. Each demonstration focuses on the needs and interests of the individual producer, with the overall theme of using aquaponics as a method of addressing real problems or opportunities by using sustainable agricultural techniques. During the life of the individual producer projects including setup of the systems and during operations, consultation will be provided to the producers by Dr. Ako and his graduate student. Studies will be conducted to track the amount of inputs used in relation to the amount and weight of the fish and the growth rates and health of the lettuce heads. Each producer that is using a renewable energy technology for their projects will be working with consultants to assist with installing and monitoring operations of the systems. The five different demonstrations will be documented, with the results compiled into creating a "Step-by-Step Aquaponics for Sustainable Agriculture" guidebook. The guidebook will be used in coordination with 2-3 field days showing the systems and the collected data. A video documentary will also be made to create a step-by-step visual on how to create your own aquaponics system for either backyard or commercial production. Participants of the field day will receive a copy of both the manual and the video. Both the guidebook and video will be available on the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)'s extension/outreach website (

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Site Establishment: 1-6th month - Establish 5 demonstration sites by purchasing the required materials for each site. Coordination will happen between Dr. Ako and the producers to ensure the systems are established depending upon the goals of the producer.

    Conduct Research: 2-8th month - Dr. Ako and his graduate student will work with the producers to monitor the systems and track growth rates of the fish and lettuce while also measuring inputs.

    Step-by-Step Aquaponics for Sustainable Agriculture" guidebook: 1-8th month - Sustain Pro Management will be working with Dr. Ako and the producers to create a step-by-step how to guidebook on how to establish aquaponics system. The guidebook will also show each producer and how they are using the aquaponics to support their ag operations. The guidebook will be available on-line and as a hard copy.

    Video Documentation: 1-8th month - Video Documentation - JD Pro Inc. will be working with Dr. Ako and the producers to create a step-by-step how to documentary on how to establish aquaponics system. The documentary will also show each producer and how they are using the aquaponics to support their ag operations. The documentary will be available on-line and on DVD.

    Field Days: 8-12th month - Two field days will be conducted at producer's sites. Dr. Ako and his graduate student will be presenting the collected data and producers will explain how they are using the aquaponics system for
    their agricultural operations. The "Step-by-Step" guidebook and documentary will be available for participants.

    Update Website: 11-12th month - All gathered materials will be posted on the website

    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.