Aquaponics Greenhouse

By Keith McCabe, DiGeronimo Aggregates, LLC

Owner: Urban Vision – Akron, OH

Development Director: Rodney Matthews

Design/Builder: The Ecoponics Group, LLC – Kent, OH

ESCS Supplier: Haydite, DiGeronimo Aggregates, LLC – Cleveland, OH

Last fall, Urban Vision, a community outreach organization located in Akron, Ohio, started construction on an aquaponics greenhouse. Aquaponics encompasses a completely sustainable ecosystem that combines raising fish (aquaculture) with hydroponics (raisingAquaponics 4 plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. The idea behind aquaponics is that fish and plants serve functions that the other needs, with help from beneficial bacteria. Waste from the fish adds nutrients to the water and fertilizes the plants. In turn, the plant/hydroponic media filter cleans the water in which the fish live.

Construction was completed in November 2012, planting began in January 2013 and already they have begun harvesting vegetables after only eight weeks growing time. Their objectives are to provide healthy food for the community in an urban setting and teach teen leaders how to run a business. Usually the cheapest and most available food in the inner city is also the most unhealthy and chemically-altered. Urban Vision is growing and selling to the community healthy fresh produce at reasonable costs – peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, squash, asparagus, lettuce and strawberries, just to name a few.

Urban Vision’s greenhouse is enclosed in a 40’ x 24’ area and has two 750 gallon fish tanks (for yellow perch and tilapia). The fish waste goes into the tanks’ water which is pumped into various growing beds (each about 10’ L x 33” W x 8” D) filled with a 100% ESCS lightweight aggregate soilless media. The ESCS aggregate filters the nutrients out of the water, allowing the seeds planted in the beds to absorb them and grow. ESCS aggregate is an excellent home for the growth of bacteria that plants need for development. The water recycles out of the beds and back into the fish tanks, returning fresh, oxygenated water back to the fish. Because of the unique porosity of ESCS aggregate the media is able to supply enough air volume to eliminate the need for an aerator in the fish tank.

The process is all natural with no chemicals or additives. Even the waste from harvested plants goes into a compost pile where Urban Vision grows worms to feed the fish and create more fertilizer for the plants. While traditional greenhouses have to keep the entire environment warm, aquaponics systems focus on heating the water instead of the air. A hot water line from Urban Vision’s boiler wraps around the fish tanks to keep the fish and water warm. Warming the water heats the plant beds as it cycles through the system and provides warmth for the fish. If the fish get too cold, they hibernate and neither eat nor produce waste to feed the plants.

Aquaponics systems produce about twice as much from the plants as traditional gardening methods and they also produce fish to eat. The systems are organic, and the plants are pest-free and weed-free. Talk about Sustainability!

Aquaponics Model Chart

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