At the University of Arizona, Dr. Kevin Fitzsimmons, professor of environmental science and director of International Initiatives within the College of Agriculture, Life & Environmental Sciences, secures a significant boost for aquaponics research with a $1M training grant from the USDA. This grant serves to explore sustainable food production systems.

One of the standout projects funded by this grant is led by Ph.D. student Andrew Masciola, whose investigation into the potential role of endangered mussels in recirculating aquaponics systems is generously supported by the Kasser Joint Institute for Food, Water, and Energy Security. Andrew’s work delves into uncharted territory, seeking to understand how these imperiled aquatic creatures could contribute to the efficiency and ecological balance of aquaponic setups.

Assisting Dr. Fitzsimmons and Andrew in their endeavors is a dedicated team of research assistants: Joy Liu, Ellie Laton, and Lillian Mance. Their contributions, backed by the resources provided through Fitzsimmons’ USDA grant, are integral to the success of the aquaponics research program at the university.

The current focus of the team’s research revolves around three key questions:

Alternative Fish Feeds: With the traditional reliance on expensive and resource-intensive fish meals for feeding aquatic organisms in aquaponics systems, the team is exploring alternatives. Specifically, they are investigating the feasibility of utilizing insects such as the black soldier fly as a sustainable and cost-effective alternative feed source. This research not only aims to reduce the ecological footprint of aquaponics but also to enhance the economic viability of these systems.

Optimizing Nutrition: In pursuit of producing the highest quality fish and vegetables within aquaponic setups, the team is conducting studies to determine which fish feed formulations yield the most nutritious outcomes. By fine-tuning the nutritional inputs, they aim to optimize the health and growth of both aquatic species and cultivated plants, thereby enhancing the overall productivity and sustainability of aquaponics systems.

Endangered Mussels in Biofilters: A particularly innovative aspect of the research involves investigating the potential benefits of incorporating endangered mussels into aquaponics biofilters. By leveraging the natural filtration capabilities of these organisms, the team aims to improve the efficiency of nutrient cycling within aquaponic systems while simultaneously contributing to the conservation efforts aimed at protecting endangered species.

Through their multifaceted research endeavors, Dr. Fitzsimmons and his team are not only advancing the frontiers of aquaponics science but also driving forward the principles of sustainability, conservation, and innovation in agriculture. Their work holds the promise of reshaping the landscape of food production towards a more resilient and environmentally responsible future.

For more information:University of Arizona



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