UNH aquaponic facility built to boost local agriculture
DURHAM — In an effort to support sustainable agriculture, the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire has opened a new aquaponic greenhouse facility.
“Over half of the world’s seafood is produced from aquaculture,” said NH Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Todd Guerdat, “Eighty percent of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported, resulting in nearly an annual $11 billion trade deficit for seafood alone. We need to take control of our food production systems by developing a sustainable, U.S.-based aquaculture industry.”
Guerdat, an assistant professor of agricultural engineering, is leading the project at the Kingman Research Farm, an experiment station facility in Madbury.
“Supporting sustainable agriculture in the Northeast United States requires a renewed focus on integrating agricultural production systems, such as combining recirculating aquaculture systems and hydroponic crop production,” Guerdat said. “Agricultural systems become more economically viable when integrated and provide an ideal farming model that produces fish and plants for food, both locally and sustainably.”
Under construction for two years, the new aquaponic research facility at the UNH Kingman Research Farm consists of three identical greenhouses. According to a UNH news release, it will allow scientists to evaluate hydroponic plants grown using water from a recirculating aquaculture system fertilized with nutrients from the food fed to fish.
“Specifically, scientists are investigating how to balance nutrient production from the fish and nutrient uptake by the plants, studying food safety concerns, developing integrated pest management solutions, and optimizing the designs based on economic modeling,” the news release states.
The plan is to demonstrate the results to producers by offering hands-on workshops covering a full range of topics, including hydroponics, aquaculture, and integrated aquaponic system design and operation.