Training Educators in the Southern Region Using Aquaponics as a Sustainable Agriculture Solution

Project Overview

SPDP22-15
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $71,980.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Grant Recipients: Clemson University; Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Lance Beecher
Clemson University
Co-Investigators:
Ben Calhoun
Greenwood Area SBDC
Roland McReynolds
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association

Commodities

  • Animals: fish

Practices

  • Animal Production: aquaculture
  • Education and Training: workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    Aquaponics, the integration of hydroponics and aquaculture, is an ancient concept that, in the last 30 years, has become a viable production method that is gaining interest. This method of sustainable agriculture is gaining momentum due to its potential for water conservation, accessibility for urban agriculture, and viability as a solution for coastal farmland with salt inundation. Many educators across the land grant system and supporting governmental and non-governmental organizations receive questions regarding utilizing aquaponics systems to grow produce and fish for local markets. Since aquaponic systems are relatively new, and there are few experts in the field, educators may not have the practical experience with these systems necessary to advise their grower clients. Questions often arise about how these systems work, including designing, building, and maintaining the system, food safety best practices, and the costs associated with these systems. This project aims to create an online/in-person hybrid training for educators who work with growers across the Southern Region of the US. This training will provide these educators with a basic working knowledge of an aquaponics system and how to safely harvest fish and produce from the system to ensure a safe food supply for consumers. The knowledge gained will prepare these educators to consult growers on whether an aquaponics system is feasible for their operation.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The project goal is to develop a hybrid online and in-person training program for educators to learn the fundamentals and best practices of working with an aquaponics production system. This training will enable educators to introduce aquaponics as a sustainable technology for food production to small agricultural business entrepreneurs and homeowners, demonstrate the essential system components, examine production and financial management strategies, and convey food safety best practices to implement during the production and harvest of fish and produce. The training material will be accessible online for other land grant universities, colleges, secondary education, USDA agencies, and other government and non-government organizations to utilize.

    The specific objective includes: 1) developing learning modules covering introductory material, system components, operational management, harvesting, food safety protocols, and business/marketing strategies; 2) formating the modules to consist of PowerPoint presentations, videos, interactive activities, quizzes, and other online material essential to exploring all aspects of aquaponics; and 3) finishing the training course with a visit to the aquaponics greenhouse or mobile unit for a hands-on field day to explore operational systems and practice concepts learned in the online course.

    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.