Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pitt can grow five tons of food in a fishy, freight container

David Templeton reports for
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
When it comes to efficient food production, the ideal is to produce it locally at low cost, with minimal use of water, resources and energy, along with a focus on recycling.  
Making notable advances toward that goal, the University of Pittsburgh Aquaponics Project team won first place and $35,000 in project funding during the 10th Annual Ford College Community Challenge, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund or Ford Fund.
The Pitt team, including students from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan, created “a 21st century food system” that raises fish and grows basil inside a 20-foot-by-8-foot shipping container, all through a process known as aquaponics. 
The process combines aquaculture — the farming of fish, crustaceans and plants in water — with hydroponics, a method of  growing plants with a continuous supply of water containing nutrients, rather than soil, said Kareem Rabbat, a 21-year-old sophomore majoring in environmental engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. 
A nursery built atop Pitt’s freight container includes PVC towers with basil plants growing from pockets in the pipes. Water, containing fish waste from a first-floor tank of 50 tilapia, is pumped to the top of the towers and allowed to trickle through the plant roots before returning by gravity to the tank. Solar panels power the pump.
The result is “an almost entirely closed-loop system,” with fish waste feeding the plants, which in turn filter the water. Tilapia, a species of fish commonly used in aquaponics, breathe surface air. “Tilapia produce a lot of waste, which gives more nutrients to the plants, and they are good at being kept together in small spaces,” said Mr. Rabbat of Bangor, Northampton County.
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