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Published on July 30th, 2010 | by Glenn Meyers

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Aquaponics a Sustainable Food Alternative

The word, aquaponics, may still sound new and foreign-sounding, but the term is beginning to get the attention of many who see it as one sustainable agricultural solution for an increasingly crowded planet.  This might be especially true for poverty stricken countries. Other inspiring descriptors come to mind: inner city agriculture, gardens that don’t waste, poverty gardens, gardens for crowded areas.

Georgia author Bevan Suits has written an engaging e-book about the topic, The Aquaponics Guidebook, Access to Personal Agriculture.” Suits’ book opens the world of aquaponics, “so you can learn about it quickly and get started, no matter your experience, budget or available space. Even beginners on a small scale will see amazing results. Greens like lettuce or basil can grow to harvest in four weeks.”

Aquaponics pioneer Wayne Dorband, founder of World Wide Aquaculture, grows harvests vegetables, herbs and fish in the many testing tanks he has established in the low light settings at his company warehouse in Loveland, Colorado. He points out that this method of growing food is innovative, inexpensive, pleasant to look at, and sustainable. Both he and Suits believe families can use these compact systems worldwide, producing fish and vegetables to feed individuals on an ongoing basis.

A viable aquaponics system combines traditional agriculture and aquaculture methods without soil. In short order the system produces a healthy culture for fish, herbs, fruits, vegetables and ornamentals to thrive. The only additional material required is water.  Fish are fed some of the plants growing in the system, and their waste fertilizes the plants.

“There is no need for additional fertilizer, weed killers or outside food if the system is properly designed,” says Dorband, pulling a trout filet from his freezer that required four months to mature.

According to Dorband, the simplest aquaponics system can be purchased and installed for about $100. The components used in Dorband’s aquaponics systems come from recycled materials such as 55-gallon drums otherwise destined for landfills, PVC pipes, pumps and washed gravel. No special water is required, as the plants purify local, well, or pond water.

The word, aquaponics, may still sound new and foreign-sounding, but the term is beginning to get the attention of many who see it as one sustainable agricultural solution for an increasingly crowded planet, especially for poverty stricken areas.

In this You Tube video, Travis Hughey, founder of Barrel-Ponics, features a system where plants grow without soil, fed by fish waste, and where fish feed on water plants for nutrition. This three-minute video, although somewhat arduous, shows how the system works and is worth the time.

Rose proves girls bloom as scientists

The Irish Times September 9, 2005 | Karlin Lillington Net Results: Finding a way to inspire girls to go into science, engineering and computing isn’t rocket science – but it may be theoretical physics.

That’s going by the debut engagement for Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain of Mayo, better known to most people as the new Rose of Tralee, but more familiar to some as the one who took first- class honours in theoretical physics at UCD and spent the summer working on a student programme at CERN, the famed particle physics laboratory in Switzerland.

Ni Shuilleabhain joined several other Irish women scientists to give presentations about their work at the BA Festival of Science on Wednesday at Trinity College, under the auspices of the national organisation Women in Technology and Science (Wits).

All the presentations were a delight, ranging from Prof Catherine Godson on her love of biomedical research; engineer Anne Graham’s tales of working for the city of Dublin; Dr Mary Bourke of the Planetary Science Institute’s descriptions of how understanding flood plains in Australia helps her explore the Mars landscape, and maths whiz and former Young Scientist Sarah Flannery on the maths games she played with her father and her love of mathematics.

What a fantastic team this group would be to tour schools. They had me ready to return to university to do maths, physics and engineering, and left me feeling disappointed that I hadn’t pursued these studies more diligently in school. In other words, they made science exciting, interesting, and fun.

So just imagine the effect on a 14 year old who thinks maths is interesting, but maybe feels it might not be the career for a girl – few friends study it, she’s worried people will think she’s a geek (a point that came up in several of the talks) and she’s wondering if she’ll spend a lifetime in a lab with no social life. go to web site cool maths games

Ni Shuilleabhain’s presentation in particular would knock such concerns into another galaxy. She peppered her talk with stories about how much fun she had studying physics, and working at CERN – from normal college activities like parties to the opportunity for travel, and excitement at working in one of the most famous centres for physics research in the world.

This message came across in the talks by Flannery – who works for Wolfram Research, an American company that designs maths software for researchers – and Bourke, also based in the US, where she works with scientists involved with space missions. For them as for the other speakers, science has meant travel, friendships, and exciting professional challenges.

It can only help that someone who can bring the poise, charm and good looks needed by a winning Rose into a classroom can show younger girls that studying science can go hand in hand with an active social life.

As Ni Shuilleabhain quipped to much laughter: “You can be a scientist and a socialite.” However, it was disappointing that, although schools across the country brought students to the festival, there were few schoolgirls at these talks.

My morning session – a wonderful extravaganza on Einstein – was filled with a couple of classes of secondary students. At a time when such focus is on getting pupils into science and engineering in this country, why are schools not getting their girls into a session like this?

These sessions featured some of our top women achievers in science, as well as young women with wonderful career prospects. In particular, the younger women, like Flannery and Ni Shuilleabhain, are perfect ambassadors for science to schools, as they are closer in age and know young girls’ concerns and interests. see here cool maths games

The session also provided a great opportunity to catch up with Flannery, one of this country’s highest profile students, who won international coverage for her cryptography project in the Young Scientist competition, but only a handful of schoolgirls joined the session.

However, I was delighted to see they were right down to talk to the speakers after the session.

I think most girls would have enjoyed the session, even if they were not interested in science. But for many, it might have proved to be the turning point in considering a science career.

The good news is that Ni Shuilleabhain has said she wishes to encourage more students, especially girls, into science. I hope she goes on a school tour because, going by her talk, she will prove an excellent antidote to a school system that doesn’t seem to know how to encourage girls to think seriously about science.

klillington@irish-times.ie Karlin Lillington




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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers is editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.



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