Auburn Family

Food for Thought: Aquaponics - Sustainable Food Production System

Auburn University is in the business of improving lives. The projects on campus that have goals of supporting humankind can be found all over campus. Because there is such a large variety of projects, some may be unknown to students.

The aquaponics system at Auburn University Fisheries started in 2006 when two greenhouses were constructed through grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The greenhouses that were constructed are now homes to Tilapia, cucumbers and tomatoes. (Photo right, Auburn OCM)

In an aquaponics system, fish are fed high-protein feed. Their solid excrements are removed through passive filtration and their liquid wastes are used to irrigate crops in a separate greenhouse. This process allows for large food production while using a limited, sustainable amount of water. (Video left by Katie Peters)

According to Mollie Smith, a graduate student at Auburn University who works directly with the aquaponics system, "This project is important for Auburn University because aquaponics is bigger than any one discipline and requires creativity and departmental collaboration to reach its full potential."

The aquaponics project has grown since 2006. The fish, cucumbers and tomatoes that are produced through this project are now given to AU Tiger Dining to feed students on campus. This partnership began in 2015. (Photo right by Katie Peters)

Tiger Dining’s involvement has provided a market for the food produced by the aquaponics system. “Tiger dining’s commitment to this project has allowed us to attempt to realize the potential of this system to produce food, gather economic data on that production, and conduct research for the benefit of improving the system,” said Smith.  

Corey Holmes, an engineering student at Auburn University, said, “I think it’s the future of gardening. It’s very sustainable and it makes me proud that my peers have been involved with research that will help feed future generations to come.

Smith says students play a huge role in the success of this aquaponics system. “Students from a host of different departments are diligently gathering data and studying the system. Also important are the students who are supporting this endeavor with their tiger dining dollars, as they purchase meals including tilapia and vegetables.”

Students can find the Tilapia at API. The tomatoes and cucumbers are served at API, Plains to Plate, Wellness Kitchen, Village Dining, Terrell Market and Terranova Salads. (Photo left by Katie Peters)

Smith wants students to know that when they purchase food produced at fisheries, they are promoting and supporting research that will help feed the future. Students who want to know more about the process are encouraged to take a group tour of the aquaponics system.

The School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences have a student-run market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. where they sell products produced by the aquaponics system. 

Auburn University Fisheries is a partner of Auburn Foods, a brand representing foods made by Auburn for Auburn. For more information on Auburn Foods, visit auburn.edu/dining.

For more information about aquaponics, visit AUquaponics on Facebook and Instagram.


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