US (FL): Off-grid aquaponics at Everglades University

AquaGrove has developed an innovative aquaponics system that allows users to grow their favorite fruits and vegetables (and fish) in one very small footprint, and in nearly any climate or season. With AquaGrove's latest project launched at Everglades University in Sarasota, Florida in April 2019, aquaponics was taken to the next level of sustainability by going off-grid; inclusive of expanded grow beds and solar power, Everglades University's sustainability program operates an impressive aquaponics system with pumps and grow lights that are run solely by the power of the sun.

Garth Schultz and Caroline King at Everglades University

Everglades University is a not-for-profit institution that is weaving the principles of sustainability, green building, and environmental consciousness into its undergraduate degree programs in order to meet the increasing demand for green careers. As the flagship campus for the University’s sustainability initiatives, the Sarasota campus has installed a number of energy-saving technologies in an effort to decrease the University's dependency on traditional energy sources. Their newest addition to their solar teaching lab is the innovative AquaGrove. The AquaGrove is an indoor/outdoor aquaponics system offering exclusive and patented thermal tanks to reduce energy consumption for the purpose of tank temperature management.

With the recently added dual-grow beds, the University increased its grow space from 16 square feet to nearly 50 square feet, adding two stacked grow beds adjacent to the AquaGrove system already in place. Additionally, four PV panels with battery backup were added to both the AquaGrove and auxiliary grow beds, enabling the system, pumps and grow lights to be solar-powered.

Campus Vice President, Caroline King, expressed the importance of this technology for students: “At Everglades University Sarasota, the AquaGrove serves as a powerful and interactive teaching tool and goes a long way towards helping our students to gain first-hand knowledge of methods to reduce our carbon footprint, grow food in a sustainable manner, and deploy the AquaGrove 'off the grid' for disaster relief and to assist communities without traditional energy infrastructure. With the addition of dual grow beds and our unique Solar Power Array, I am very proud to have one of the first solar-powered aquaponics systems of this kind on our campus.”

Prior to the expansion of their garden, Everglades University already experienced great benefits from having the AquaGrove on their campus. Students have been able to utilize the AquaGrove in a multitude of related studies including Introduction to Sustainability, all chemistry courses and multiple alternative energy courses. Several students volunteer their time outside of class to maintain and monitor the AquaGrove system and present to community groups, and the University has hosted a variety of community events including Sustainability and Solar Fairs, Girls and Boys Scouts, Earth Day and more.

Students have been able to experiment with growing various crops including leaf lettuce, basil, green beans, mint and mixed salad. They have also raised tilapia and developed a standardized fish feeding protocol, data logs and run comparisons for growth rates based on published data for tilapia. With the new expansion of their grow space, and solar-powered system upgrades, Everglades University will be able to produce more fish and healthy greens with less time, space and energy.

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