The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is one of the few food banks in the nation that utilizes an aquaponic system. On Saturday, the Urban Harvest program offered class to teach the community how to build and maintain the system in their own backyard. Aquaponics is a system of growing fish and edible plants in a closed, circulating system. It creates a bio-system in which fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish.
The Regional Food Bank has been experimenting with two different aquaponics systems since 2006 and has had great results. The current system consists of a tank that can hold up to 800 tilapia, connected to two 50-feet-long floating grows beds that accommodate up to 800 plant units. Typically, lettuce grows to harvest size in five weeks in this system. The system can be smaller or larger, based on needs and goals.
Tilapia is the fish of choice for most growers as they grow from fingerling to 1.5 pounds in as little as nine months. The leafy greens and herbs grow quickly, producing nutritious food faster than field growing.
The class, which was in such high demand that a waiting list was created, consisted of 30 students who worked to construct a “low-tech” aquaponic system that could be adapted to home or small business with a relatively small financial investment. The system will be used as the Urban Harvest nursery for baby tilapia.