With an unusually warm spring heralding the hotter days of summer, it’s time to transition the aquaponics facility from winter to summer conditions. Exhaust fan vents are uncovered and the swamp coolers are serviced and re-connected to the water line. Shade cloth is installed on the greenhouse.
Twenty-five tilapia and four pacu are moved from the solar-heated tank, where they over-wintered, back to the main system. The solar thermal panels are covered for the summer, and the solar tank is prepared for use as a quarantine tank for a batch of young catfish that will be raised through the summer. The hydroponic raft units located outside the greenhouse are brought into service to increase the vegetable production capacity of the system and bring the raft area into balance with the increased biomass (and therefore increased rate of feed/nutrient input) of the fish.
The aquaponics facility will be the focus of an undergraduate research project this summer, led by Paul Smithson (Chemistry/SENS) and Richard Olson (SENS). Berea students Brittany Schroeder, Georgia Dahlquist, Sarah Elrod and Safia Al-Maamary will work with the faculty in monitoring and analyzing water chemistry in the aquaponics system, as well as in the Agriculture program’s aquaculture lagoons. The results of this research will be used to improve the performance and efficiency of both systems.