When it comes to American agriculture and farming, the state of California is usually not the first to come to mind. However, in 2017 the California Department of Food and Agriculture reported $20.56 billion in agricultural exports. But as climate change continues to impact farmer’s harvests and deplete critical resources for sustainable farming, such as chemical-derived plant nutrients and water, major innovations in farming are crucial to maintaining California’s booming agriculture market.
A team of engineers from San Jose State University in northern California is sparking that innovation through community education about sustainable farming technology.
The team came across many small farms that harness the power of aquaponics. Aquaponics is a system that combines raising small aquatic animals with cultivating plants in water (often called hydroponics) to create a sustainable, symbiotic environment. While there is a growing interest in aquaponics, it unfortunately does not have enough research and financial backing necessary for widespread growth and development.
However, the team partnered with The Tech Interactive, a family-friendly interactive science and technology museum that serves as a community-wide educational resource, to teach future generations about the power of aquaponics. With the help of an EPICS in IEEE grant, the team designed and built an exhibit for visitors of the Tech Museum to learn about aquaponics.
The exhibit demonstrates how aquatic animals and plants can be cultivated together efficiently and sustainably with minimal waste, space, and maintenance. Additionally, the exhibit doubles as an interactive innovation space for children to learn about the applications and feasibility of aquaponics. The team began construction in September 2018, and the system went live as of April 2019. The exhibit has been met with great success and interest, and the team hopes to not only educate their local community, but create a global, informed agricultural audience, promote a healthier environment, and produce sustainable food for their community and beyond.