Aquaponics Research Center to Cultivate Organic Food Using Biodynamic Techniques

On Nov. 21, Armstrong broke ground on the Armstrong Plantonics Research Center, an exciting new collaboration with Plantonics LLC, an innovative company dedicated to growing sustainable food.

Together, Armstrong and Plantonics will build a solar-powered vegetarium and aquaponics complex in the field adjacent to the Arts Drive parking lot. This new facility will conduct cutting-edge research and cultivate organic vegetables and fish using biodynamic, environmentally friendly techniques.

Aquaponics is a food-production system that combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. At Armstrong’s new aquaponic facility, water enriched with fish waste will feed into a hydroponic system, where by-products are broken down and utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water will then be recirculated back to the aquaculture system to sustain the fish.

“This is an opportunity to do something that really matters,” said Dr. Matthew Draud, head of Armstrong’s Biology department. “We’re looking at doing groundbreaking research that makes aquaponics economically viable.”

Armstrong faculty and students will be directly involved in the design and operation of the facility, conducting interdisciplinary research and advocating sustainable aquaculture. The first phase of the project is expected to be complete in spring 2015.

“This collaborative effort is going to create opportunities for students, faculty members and scientific discovery,” Draud said. “This collaboration is about feeding people in a sustainable manner. It’s about doing research that really makes a difference.”

Plantonics LLC is dedicated to bringing aquaponics to the masses by creating a commercially viable alternative to traditional agriculture. Under the leadership of Head Lettuce Claude Galipeault, the company’s projects include vegetariums, Micro Rivers, organic emulsions and Aquasolair technology.

“My passion is to feed people,” Galipeault told the crowd at the groundbreaking. “I believe everyone should enjoy access to good, healthy food.”

The ceremony included a demonstration of aquaponic technology as well as a groundbreaking. Armstrong made a donation to Second Harvest Food Bank’s Executive Director Mary Jane Crouch, as a symbol of the project’s commitment to raising healthy, sustainable food.

Loretta Cockrum, the founder of Foram Group Charitable Foundation, provides funding for Plantonics projects, supporting ongoing efforts to make aquaponic technology economically viable.

“Aquaponics is about 2,000 years old and goes back to the River Nile,” she said. “The concept of fish providing nutrients to fertilize the soil is nothing new, but it provides incredible opportunities to feed people around the world.”