The lands that became the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women in 1911 were agricultural lands as early as the 1700s. Part of the curriculum of the PSHW included caring for a working farm. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to see students waking before the morning sunrise to milk the prize cows and tend to the other animals and fields.
Farming research of an altogether different sort is taking place at Temple University Ambler. Students, faculty and staff continue to expand a fully developed — and constantly growing — aquaponics garden and research lab, which has taken root in the lower level of West Hall.
Temple University Ambler Aquaponics works alongside community organizations, schools, entrepreneurs, veterans and students of all majors to "farm for our future."
Aquaponics is the cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a self-sustaining, symbiotic environment.
How it works: Waste from the fish is converted by beneficial bacteria into an organic food source for the plants. The plants absorb the nutrients and naturally filter the water back into the fish tank.
Aquaponics has the benefits of both aquaculture and hydroponics, using 90 percent less water than would be used in soil-based farming and producing fresh food in any size system.
While traditional commercial aquaponics gardens focus on harvesting both plants and fish, the Ambler aquaponics lab — fully accredited by the AAALAC (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care) — is focused entirely on research, exploring different types of aquaponics set-ups and finding the best balance between fish, plants and nutrients.
Benefits of Aquaponic Farming
- Environmentally friendly
- Less labor intensive compared to traditional farming
- Accessible to growers of all skill levels
- Scaleable from tabletop gardens to working farms
- Farm in an apartment or greenhouse
- Grow plants two to three times faster than traditional methods
- Multiple crops and fish may be combined in the same system
- Fertilizers and pesticides are not needed
- Grow plants with low energy use
- Fish and plants can be harvested as a food source
Learn about Aquaponics
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What is aquaponics? It's taking hydroponics (soiless farming) and adding in aquaculture (fish farming) to create a mutually beneficial cycle. Growing fish and plants together in a closed cycle creates a system that is organic and potentially self-replenishing for year round farming. Immerse yourself into the world of aquaponics. Upon completion, you will have the knowledge to create your own aquaponics system and an understanding of the personal and social benefits of systems like this. This program is offered on campus and online.
Three-credit Horticulture Course
This course provides the background and basic understanding of this intertwined and complex system, design choices, and the science behind aquaponics. Students gain the skills to develop, design and build an aquaponics system for home or business use. Visit Course Schedule and search under Horticulture for "Special Topics - 33974 - HORT 2870 - 101"
Aquaponics in the News
Aquaponics, which began as a grassroots effort at Temple University Ambler in 2013, has come a long way in just a few years. As awareness of Temple’s aquaponics lab has grown, so has interest from outside organizations. Read more.
Plants + Fish = Self-Sustained Farming. It’s a fairly simple equation — fish waste becomes food for plants and the plants naturally filter the water back into the fish tank — for an innovative approach to agriculture that can be economically undertaken in spaces large and small. Read more.
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