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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Aquatic Animal Health Research » Research » Research Project #440661

Research Project: Developing Sustainable Aquaponic Production Systems

Location: Aquatic Animal Health Research

Project Number: 6010-32000-028-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2021
End Date: Jun 30, 2026

Integration of aquaculture and hydroponic vegetable production, as aquaponics, allows for diversification of food production systems, offers new sources of employment and economic development, and potentially provides an approach for high-intensive food production that is sustainable and addresses future food scarcity and security needs. Sustainability in aquaponic systems relies upon optimization of many inputs and outputs, of energy and materials, and of internal processes of various biological production units at maximum resource use efficiencies. Therefore, the overall long-term goal of this project is to develop a model aquaponic system that is scalable and commercially-viable and which can address current and future food production concerns in a sustainable manner while providing further economic stimulus through job creation and technology development.

1) Optimize Fish Production Systems for Aquaponics. Investigations will be initiated into aquaculture system designs and types that best support fish health and production in the context of aquaponics, species diversification for aquaponics, and fish nutrition. 2) Optimize Plant Production Systems for Aquaponics. Crop production models for high-value greenhouse vegetable crops, including tomato, strawberry, cucumber, pepper, and lettuce will be developed. Comparisons between industry-standard systems using hydroponics and aquaponics will be made for each plant species. 3) Optimize the Integration of Fish and Plant Production Systems. Dynamic, systems-level models will be developed to optimize energy, water, and nutrient use efficiencies of a model aquaponics system. Additionally, investigations into the microbiome of both fish and plant systems will be initiated with the long-term goal of developing systems-level dynamic models of the microbiome which will inform production decisions and system design considerations. 4) Increase Adoption of Aquaponics Technology. Linkages between research and industry will be strengthened to promote appropriate aquaponics technologies. Outreach initiatives will include workshops, trainings, and farm visits. Partnerships with researchers and extension professionals from other institutions will be initiated and strengthened with the ultimate goal of developing best management practices for the growing aquaponics industry.