Aquaponics Working Group
The Aquaponics Working Group includes representatives from Tiger Dining as well as professors from fisheries, horticulture, and biosystems engineering. Aquaponics combines aquaculture with hydroponics, or the practice of growing plants without soil.The practice has been called “the future of farming” because of its efficient use of water to grow both fish and produce.
At this point, the goal of the aquaponics group is the address questions about the profitability of a large-scale aquaponics system. And although consumers are willing to pay extra for high-quality local produce, the fish side of an aquaponics system struggles for profitability because of the predominance of cheap, imported seafood. The greenhouse side also faces challenges because of the cost of electricity, which limits the growth of “vertical farming” in urban locations; one proposed project would compare costs of vertical farming, greenhouse farming, and traditional farming.
In addition, Best Management Practices and safety standards for aquaponics operations haven’t yet been developed, so the group is working on both. Finally, working group members are interested indetermining differences in requirements for an aquaponics system in the warm Southeast compared to other parts of the country. They are reaching out to fellow researchers at other institutions to form a multi-state research consortium.
The group received nearly $1 million in USDA funding last year and also has forged a working relationship with AU Tiger Dining and director of campus dining, Glenn Loughridge. A working aquaponics model at the E.W. Shell Fisheries Center a few miles north of Auburn’s campus provides fish and produce to AU Tiger Dining in return for ongoing financial support.
Jesse Chappell is an associate professor and extension specialist in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. His research emphasis is primarily on projects designed to demonstrate methods and strategies leading to great efficiency and profitability in Alabama’s aquaculture business.
Terry Hanson is a professor and extension specialist in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences. In addition to aquaponics, his research interests include sustainable production and economic performance of farming hybrid/channel catfish in an In-Pond Raceway System, bioeconomics of columnaris vaccines in channel catfish aquaculture, pond-to-plate project field trials to combat virulent Aeromonas hydrophila, and more.
Tung-Shi Huang is a professor of food science in the Department of Poultry Science. His interests include food safety, aquaponics, and development of biosensors to detect foodborne pathogens.
Daniel Wells is an assistant professor in the Department of Horticulture. Along with his interest in aquaponics, he focuses on specialty crop production systems in Alabama and local foods production.