The practice of aquaculture, or fish farming, can produce large quantities of waste similar to municipal wastewater treatment systems. Historically in aquaculture these nutrients were simply discharged to the environment. The waste resulted in degraded water quality near and downstream from aquaculture facilities. The widespread environmental damage quickly led to the development of aquaculture regulations and new technologies that reclaim nutrients rather than wasting them.
Aquaponics is an example of one aquaculture system that was developed to recycle nutrients. In aquaponics, fish production is combined with hydroponic plant production. The two processes work symbiotically, fish waste provides nutrients for the plant growth and the plants facilitate nitrification eliminating ammonia which is toxic to fish.
PIRE partner, the University of the Virgin Islands’ (UVI), St. Croix campus is the site of the world renowned UVI aquaponic system. The aquaponic system is both a research and training facility. Several times a year, a three day aquaponics workshop is held by which attracts participants from around the globe. Two USF students, Suzie Boxman and Trina Halfhide, attended the UVI training workshop this summer. The course, taught by Don Bailey, is very hands on and the students learned every part of how to operate an aquaponic system from harvesting fish eggs to harvesting plants.
Suzie Boxman will be using the information she collected while at UVI to complete a life cycle assessment on the UVI system. The training she received will also be used to help develop a novel marine aquaponic system at Mote Aquaculture Research Park (MAP) in Sarasota, Fl. Previously MAP conducted research on a marine integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system which produced wetlands plants for coastal restoration.