Project Number: 6028-31630-009-005-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Sep 1, 2022
End Date: Sep 30, 2024
Evaluate commercial-scale production potential of various plant (herbs, vegetables, and flowers) species for performance and growth rates in a freshwater aquaponic production system culturing high-value fish species.
Sweetpotato (Ipomea batatas) slips (or vines) and other vegetables might be suitable crops for culture in an aquaponic production system. Aquaponics is a blend of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). The availability of sweetpotato slips is often a bottleneck to the terrestrial production of sweetpotato storage roots. Furthermore, sweetpotato leaves can be consumed by humans due to being rich in various minerals and bioactive compounds that have antimutagenic, anticancer, and antidiabetic properties. Other vegetables also are nutritious for humans and contain many minerals and vitamins, and antioxidant compounds, that are essential in the human diet. If they can be grown in an aquaponic system (which can have a small carbon footprint), this might be a means to provide fresh, locally-grown produce to people in areas that might otherwise have little availability of such foods (such as in large urban areas). In each of the six aquaponic systems there will be a floating raft culture unit and media-filled bed for plants. Fish species selected for trials may include hybrid striped bass, white bass, tilapia, largemouth bass, and baitfish, and will be stocked approximately 1-2 weeks before plants will be added. In each aquaponic system, fish will be fed at least once daily as much diet as they will consume in 20-30 minutes. Diets fed will meet all nutrient requirements for the respective fish species stocked. Each fish tank will have a screen covering the top to prevent fish escapes and will also contain airstone(s) to provide aeration. Water quality will be monitord at least twice weekly in each aquaponic system. In each aquaponic system, plants will be added to either the deep well unit (raft), the media bed unit, or both. Plant baskets may be used in the holding rafts along with some media to hold the plant erect and in place. Three of these systems will receive black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) frass as a nutrient source while the other three systems will not. The proposed project should consist of 2-4 separate experiments, depending upon duration of the trial and their complexity for sample analysis.