P'unk Ave

Aquaponics at Riverbend

Built in 2015, our state-of-the-art 300 square foot aquaponics greenhouse is a lving learning laboratory that advances Riverbend’s mission of environmental literacy.

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What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is an agricultural method that combines aquaculture (raising fish in a controlled environment) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) in one integrated system. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants, and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish. Another essential participant in the closed-loop system is bacteria that converts the ammonia from the fish waste into nitrates, a form of nitrogen that plants need to grow.

Advantages to growing food by means of aquaponics include:

  • Low water usage -- only 1/10 the volume required by soil-based gardening
  • No harmful chemicals, fertilizers or pesticides are used
  • It grows more food in less space than soil-based gardening
  • It grows protein in the form of fish simultaneously with vegetables.
  • Most systems are located at waist height, making planting and harvesting easier

Aquaponics is a sustainable, natural method of agriculture for the future. With an estimated human world population of more than 9 billion people by 2050, experts are predicting water and food scarcity will become more common, making aquaponics a relevant and timely topic to explore.

Building STEM Skills through Aquaponics

Implementing an integrated curriculum that enables teachers to investigate deeply in a single topic across multiple subject areas, aquaponics provides experiential learning opportunities that engage students in STEM topics, food systems, farming production and sustainability. It invites students to think critically about how community and societal goals can be met using agricultural practices such as aquaponics. Through this program, students will practice science skills in developing investigable questions, collecting and analyzing data and communicating science content.

Students learn first-hand how the nitrogen cycle works and investigate the natural systems that rely on this process. They will be able to apply what they learn about bacteria to many other areas of study; they will explore where our food comes from and how our current food systems impact our environment. They will also recognize how water conservation is crucial in smaller communities and globally.

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For more information please contact

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Suzanne Safran

Education Operations Manager

Aquaponics Success Stories

How Alex P. became an Aquaponics Farmer in 8th Grade

Like a Boss: How Riverbend’s Aquaponics Program Prepares Kyra for the Future

Riverbend EEC, Norristown Area School District Win Award