- Fruits: melons, pineapples
- Vegetables: cabbages, peppers, tomatoes
- Additional Plants: herbs
- Animals: fish
- Animal Production: livestock breeding, stocking rate, watering systems
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: youth education
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships, urban agriculture
One of three species of fish will be used for our project (Tilapia, Bluegill, or Perch). The decision on which fish species will be used will be based on cost and availability. There will be approximately 200 fish annually as a part of the project. Lincoln University and/or the Missouri Department of Conservation will serve as our supplier for our aquaponics tank. Money from the grant will not be used to purchase the fish. Most of the money will be used to complete the construction of the infrastructure of the recirculating aquaponics system. There will be approximately 200 fish in residence in our 250-gallon tank. Best practice for this system has one fish/gallon, and we are staying below this threshold for the express purpose of lowering the stocking density.
The aquaponics system is in an indoor facility that is climate controlled. The HVAC in the building will help to maintain an appropriate water temperature for the fish growth and development. A weekly cleaning schedule has been developed with a detailed checklist. Students will be serving as the maintenance crew for the project, and teachers and administrators will supervise their work. The cleaning will include the tank, plumbing and grow beds as well as the surrounding floors and walls to minimize external contamination of the system. At the end of each growing cycle, a deeper cleaning of the grow bed and tank will be performed to maintain excellent growing conditions for both the plants and the fish. The water in the system is self-contained as it is cleaned by the biofilter and the plants in the grow bed. Part of the weekly checklist will be to checking the water levels. We anticipate some evaporation, but not significant water loss. The food will be provided using a daily food feeder that is on a timer. The system will be checked on a weekly basis. The fish will be provided standard fish food at appropriate levels throughout the project. Both students and faculty will be providing stewardship to the project.
Students participating in the project will move through learning stages that including watching others, working side-by-side with trained faculty before working independently on the care of the fish and grow bed. The fish will be used in the school cafeteria as well as sold or traded with local community partners. Our community partners will come to the site to pick up their fish, lettuce, and herbs. Our project is working with the Fish and Wildlife experts at the Missouri Department of Conservation. Pictures about our work can be seen at: http://tinyurl.com/aghex8a