Want to Learn More About Aquaponics? Here Are Some Resources!
Aquaponics has been getting a lot of good press lately, and with every news article published about it, more people want to start their own projects. But most people interested in learning about aquaponics don’t have prior experience in aquaculture (fish cultivation) or farming, or even have a firm grasp on the science behind aquaponics. So where to start?
I personally learned about aquaponics as a student through interning at Oko Farms in Brooklyn, NY. But the ways to learn about this growing method are myriad, from classroom programs to online forums.
Below, a by-no-means-comprehensive list of available aquaponics resources in the United States, based on where you are in your aquaponics journey.
Are You a Student Who Wants to Learn More About Aquaculture?
Elementary Through High School
For elementary educators and their young students, aquaponics is attractive for its multidisciplinary applications, from physics to biology. Programs like NY Sunworks in New York City and SPARK-Y in Minneapolis bring urban growing and aquaponics to classrooms, so teachers do not have to learn aquaponics from scratch on their own.
Good news for high school students – those wanting to learn how to raise fish and plants need look no further than the science classroom. Many schools with sustainability programs may already have an aquaculture or aquaponics component, or a teacher willing to help start one.
To highlight the growing enthusiasm for aquaponics in classrooms, here are just a few examples of programs for high school students in New York City:
- At John Bowne High School, students have hands-on experience raising fish such as tilapia every year, as part of their comprehensive aquaculture training through the school’s agricultural program.
- New York Harbor School‘s unique program teaches students about aquatic ecosystems using the city’s natural harbor. The school has a freshwater aquaculture system where students cultivate oysters and tilapia.
- The Food and Finance High School has an aquaponics system in its basement, run by Cornell University professor Philson Warner.
Here is an additional list of ten high schools teaching aquaponics across the United States.
Colleges and Universities
Aquaponics’ present wave of interest is often credited to Dr. James Rakocy of the University of the Virgin Islands’ aquaculture program in the 1980s. Since then, the number of universities offering aquaponics curriculums and projects is only increasing year by year:
- The aquaculture program at the University of the Virgin Islands also boasts a healthy aquaponics curriculum, and has the added benefit of three decades of aquaponics research to its name.
- Students at the University of Hawaii Maui College, as of January 2017, can now take full coursework in aquaponics, which includes lesson plans in entrepreneurship – an extremely necessary skill nowadays!
- SUNY Morrisville marries controlled environment agriculture with year-round aquaponics in their heated greenhouse. Students have available to them an A.A.S. degree in Aquaculture and Aquatic Science.
- Ithaca College Aquaponics and Hydroponics is a research team of environmental students at Ithaca College, led by Professor Paula Turkon.
- Through the fisheries and aquaculture programs at SUNY Cobleskill, students can also take part in running a full-scale aquaponics lab.
- The University of Freshwater Sciences in Milwaukee does extensive work on intensive aquaculture in cities, and offers 3-day monthly aquaponics courses through Growing Power a few times a year.
Many university aquaponics programs are born out of existing aquaculture and/or fisheries programs – here is an additional list of aquaculture and fisheries programs in the United States.
Are You Looking for Hands-on Aquaponics Experience?
Many aquaponics farms also have training programs that home enthusiasts can take part in, in lieu of attending university for aquaponics. Here are just a few:
- Nelson and Pade (Montello, WI) offers aquaponics classes on-site in Wisconsin, that range from 3-day master classes to semester long commitments. Their online resources are also not to be missed – they are almost intimidatingly comprehensive.
- UVI Aquaponics Workshop (St. Croix, UVI) is a 3-day intensive that teaches all aspects of aquaponics production, including fish breeding information.
- Oko Farms (Brooklyn, NY) is the only space in New York City where you can learn aquaponics in a hands-on environment from an expert. And you just might meet me there, too!
- The folks at Green Acre Aquaponics (Brooksville, FL) teach a 3-day aquaponics course, which can be found through their education website at The Aquaponic Farming Course.
- Agua Dulce Farms (Austin, TX) is a 3-acre aquaponics and soil farm in the heart of the city. While they do not offer classes, Agua Dulce has an aquaponics work exchange program in addition to paid farm apprenticeships.
- Friendly Aquaponics (Honoka’a, HI) differentiates itself by advertising its 3-day commercial aquaponics trainings, this year in Dallas, Texas as being the best option for designing your own productive and commercially profitable aquaponics farms. The Friendly Aquaponics online resources are also extensive, where they make available decades-worth of information.
- The Aquaponics Source (Boulder, CO) offers varied courses on-site from aquaponics greenhouse design to aquaponics business classes, as well as boasting fantastic online resources. Honorable mention here goes to Sylvia Bernstein, who founded The Aquaponics Source and is in some circles referred to as "the mother of aquaponics."
- Colorado Aquaponics (Denver, CO) is run by husband and wife team JD and Tawnya Sawyer. They teach aquaponics classes at The GrowHaus, which they helped design. They also consult on building and own The Aquaponics Source.
- Morningstar Fishermen (Dade City, FL) offers 3 to 5 day aquaponics courses on-site in Florida. They have also done significant work building systems overseas.
- Growing Power (Milwaukee, WI), as mentioned above, hosts aquaponics workshops every month.
- Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems is a global operation that offers recirculating aquatic farms support in addition to a workshop that is offered monthly in different countries.
- Ouroboros Farms (Half Moon Bay, CA) is now offering a 3-day aquaponics course that also includes a meal prepared on-site featuring fish and produce harvested as part of the class.
Are You Looking for Online Aquaponics Resources?
While I generally recommend learning from aquaponics professionals and experts, it’s not always possible. If, after scouring your area for aquaponics resources, there are no accessible farms or schools, the Internet is the next best thing. Many of the resources listed above also have online information available on their websites, and many of them are free and open access to the public:
- The Recirculating Farms Coalition, in addition to being a support system for existing recirculating farms, has a comprehensive list of free online resources for aquaponics novices, many of them from the farms listed above.
- While TCLynx does not offer classes, this Florida-based expert offers aquaponics consulting services, information, and a full catalogue of aquaponics equipment on the farm website. If you live in the Yalaha, FL area you can also buy fresh, seasonal aquaponics produce from TCLynx.
- The USDA posted this handy guide on aquaponics resources in your area or online – from published university research to how to access your local USDA extension agent for aquaponics help.
- This Aquaponics Book List compiled by aquaponics enthusiast M.H. Kabir on his blog is a great introduction to aquaponics for people who prefer a book-based approach to learning.
For those moments you are truly stuck on a strange problem with your home DIY aquaponics system with no access to an expert, crowdsourcing information in this Age of the Internet is a no-brainer. There are several good forums where aquaponics learners, some of them more knowledgeable than professionals, gather and build community:
- Backyard Aquaponics, in addition to having comprehensive aquaponics information online, also boasts a healthy and active forum where people from all around the world share information about their experiences with aquaponics, from fish disease to a buy-sell thread for equipment.
- The reddit for r/aquaponics is a supportive space where beginners can have their questions answered by helpful strangers, but by far my favorite part about Reddit is the pictures people post of their aquaponics successes – some of them are pretty amazing!
- The DIY Aquaponics forum stands out because not only does it have a robust community, but also a section on Aquaponics 101 for beginners, and threads on aeroponics and bioponics.
If you find yourself stumped about the specifics of engineering your aquaponics system, it’s helpful to watch someone walking you through your problem step-by-step. YouTube is a fantastic resource where people show their creative applications for backyard aquaponics:
- Rob Bob’s Backyard Farm & Aquaponics is a veritable treasure trove of aquaponics engineering and gardening videos, all narrated in Rob’s friendly style. He also posts aquaponics vlogs of his daily discoveries.
- Murray Hallam, noted Australian aquaponics expert, also has several videos posted, answering questions from how to deal with stressed fish to common pests.
- Affnan’s Aquaponics is not only a YouTube channel but also an informative blog where Malaysian aquaponics enthusiast Affnan posts his experiments and troubleshooting experience with home aquaponics systems. Although listed last, this is one of the most useful aquaponics resources that I rely on.