Located in Tampa, Florida, the Sickles High School has incorporated innovative technology to supply their garden with water. By using aquaponics, the combination of hydroponic plant growing and aquacultured fish, they have displayed a viable substitute for typical dirt farming.
How does it work? The water from the fish (tilapia) tanks is run through several types of hydroponic growth mediums where excess nitrogen is taken up and used by the plants. The water is then returned to the fish tanks in essence cleaner than it was before it ran through the plants. This type of closed filtration system in conjunction with the hydroponic plant filter has the capacity of growing 200% – 300% more plants in the same amount of area using only 10% of the water as a conventional dirt garden without any harmful runoff of fertilizer into the environment.
Every Monday, about 150 student volunteers work on the project including planting, cloning, new setups, moving and sizing fish, and harvest. The aquaponics club elicits the help of the culinary institute of the school during harvest time. To date, the selection of plants include peas, basil, catnip, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, chives, cilantro, onions, rosemary, oregano, mint, and strawberries, not to mention 3 generations of fish ranging in size from under 1 cm to over 40 cm (16 inches).
All this is possible with only about 5 gallons of water per day! Plus, there is NO harmful runoff of fertilizer into the environment!