Senior Honors Projects, 2010-current

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)

Department

Department of Integrated Science and Technology

Advisor(s)

Paul Goodall

Karim Altaii

Wayne Teel

Abstract

Aquaponics is a soilless agriculture system that combines hydroponics and aquaculture to grow both fish and produce. Aquaponics relies on a recirculating closed loop system that can allow for a 90 – 97% reduction in water usage compared to irrigation in convention agriculture. Aquaponics also greatly reduces the possibility of water contamination because there is no runoff. The energy investment in agriculture can also be greatly reduced through the low energy fertilizer source presented by the fish. When used as a local food source aquaponics also has the benefit of reducing food miles, improving food security, and participating in the development of local economies. While aquaponics is largely unfeasible in the developing country context at this time due to the system’s complexity and underdeveloped supply and support infrastructure there are growing possibilities for implementation in urban settings. Urban aquaponics can be implemented in commercial, community based, and personal systems, while the focus of this study is commercial based approaches. Two different production systems were considered in this study. The UVI system (University of the Virgin Islands) is a more traditional approach to commercial aquaponic production that emphasizes aquaculture and utilizes raft production techniques. It requires substantial equipment investment and higher operational expenses. Although it can provide very high outputs its commercial viability may be constrained by the availability of a suitable market for the fish. The Bright Agrotech system emphasizes produce production and utilizes a vertical, media filled, tower based system. The Bright Agrotech system requires lower investment and operational costs and may be viable for a broader range of markets. Strategies for improving the commercial viability of aquaponics are discussed along with a comparison to the viability of purely hydroponic systems. It is concluded that aquaponics should be classified as a lifestyle business or social entrepreneurship and slow growth of the industry is expected in the short term future due to competition with hydroponics for the same mark segments.

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