History and Research

Farming fish dates back centuries. Modern research in the field of aquaponics began around the early 1970's.There were several successes and failures that when compiled lead to the science of Aquaponics we know today.

The New Alchemy Institute

The New Alchemy Institute was an important pioneer in what has become an entirely new way of farming in the twenty-first century. It was located on a 12-acre (49,000 m2), former dairy farm in Hatchville Massachusetts on Cape Cod . The institute was founded by John Todd , Nancy Jack Todd, and William McLarney. Its purpose was to research human support systems of food, water, and shelter and to completely rethink how these systems were designed.

New Alchemy experimented with growing edible fish in ponds in the bioshelters. The solar aquaculture ponds were above-ground, translucent tanks. The fertile pond water was used for irrigating the crops in the greenhouses. This proved to be a successful way to raise edible fish, floating hydroponic crops, and irrigated greenhouse food crops.The Institute itself closed in 1991 however  publications on greenhouse production  and aquaponics are still used as valuable resource for technical information. To learn more visit http://www.thegreencenter.net/.

 Other major contributions to aquaponic  research include:

The North Carolina System

Inspired by the successes of the New Alchemy Institute and the North Carolina State University  with aquaponics, other institutes followed suit. The North Carolina System was developed by graduate student Mark McMurtry at The University of North Carolina . The system, developed in the 1980's was a ground breaking aqua-veggie culture system based on Tilapia. Highlights of his system include, conservation of water, intensive production of fish protein and reduction of operating costs as opposed to either system in isolation.

The Speraneo System

Tom and Paula Spreraneo, owners of  S&S Aqua Farm near West Plains, Missouri took the knowledge aquired from the North Carolina and modified it. In their system, tilapia is raised in a 500 gallon tank with fish effluent linked to gravel cultured hydroponic vegetables, inside a solar greenhouse. Unfortunately, Tom passed away in 2004. Paula still operates the family farm. They now grow a diverse variety of vegetables and herbs.

The University of the Virgin Islands System

 James Rakocy PhD. and associates in at UVI developed  a commercial-scale deep water culture (DWC) system which has operated continuously for more than nine years. Nile and Red Tilapia are raised in rearing tanks. The tanks are linked to a floating raft hydroponics system. Aquacultural effluent is recirculated throughout with the aid of pumps. They have successfully raised basil, lettuce, okra and other crops. The results were high quality vegetables and large yields. Dr. Rakocy has published many extensive research reports. Especially see; Update on Tilapia and Vegetables in the UVI System 2004. Dr. Rakocy also notes the integrated water reuse system as a viable solution to energy efficient food production in developing countries and in arid regions where fresh water is scarce. The UVI team offers a week long short course each year.

The Friendly Aquaponics System

This system was developed by our mentors Susanne Friend and Tim Mann. Located near Honoka'a , Hawaii, the couple operates a successful commercial and family aquaponics farm. Tim completed the University of the Virgin Islands short course. He brought his knowledge back to Hawaii where he built a simpler, lower cost and equally efficient system. Tim and Susanne also offer a commercial aquaponics course, which we highly recommend.

Growing Power

Recent years have seen a shift towards community integration of aquaponics, such as the nonprofit foundation Growing Power that offers Milwaukee youth job opportunities and training while growing food for their community. The model has spawned several projects in other cities. In 2010, a partnership of experts in sustainable agriculture was formed under the name AquaPlanet to promote the technology through media and consulting. The team includes Dr. Mark McMurtry and Barrel-Ponics inventor Travis Hughey.

Note: This site is still under construction a complete reference page with links will be provided. Please feel free to email any questions to our email located on our home page.