UNCW students to learn and grow food with new 250-gallon aquaponics tank
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The University of North Carolina at Wilmington has unveiled a 250-gallon aquaponics tank in Wagoner Dining Hall that will act as a learning experience for students and provide fresh food to the dining halls.
The aquaponics tank is a joint project between UNCW's departments of sociology and criminology, marine biology and biology, and environmental studies. It combines aquaculture and hydroponic technology, allowing plants and fish to coexist.
According to a news release from the school, Campus Dining will utilize the vegetables and herbs grown.
"Students are keenly aware of the importance of local food, sustainable food supplies and their role as citizens in minimalizing our ecological footprints," said Leslie Hossfeld, chair of UNCW's department of sociology and criminology. "Aquaponics, like other sources of food production, is a perfect way to teach sustainability and the importance of being cognizant of one's ecological footprint."
Several professors have developed course material relating to sustainability and local food initiatives to further engage their students.
"We also wanted students to understand how our food is grown," added UNCW Dining Hall Executive Director Matt Rogers. "This is a great way to do it inside, a great way to show them come cool technology and it's also an applied learning opportunity for classes to come and experience it."
The water pumps were turned on and rocks were added on Wednesday. Rogers says tilapia and plants will be introduced to the system within two weeks or so.
Soon enough, chefs in the dining hall will be able to snip herbs and use lettuce for meals. The fish will take a season until their ready to be harvested.
Rogers says their ultimate goal is to build a bar top table for students to sit around the tank and to install a camera above it for live video feeds on the Internet.
School officials say funding for this project was provided by ETEAL, Feast Down East, UNCW Campus Dining, UNCW's departments of sociology and criminology, environmental studies, the College of Arts and Sciences and local business Progressive Gardens.
Progressive Garden's Owner and UNCW alum Evan Folds will provide the vegetables grown in the tank.
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