I have been in conversation and have worked with Eric Maundu of Kijani Grows for 3 or 4 years, I think, on and off. I have purchased one of his computers, which I am now re-starting at my current aquaponics greenhouse in Baltimore. So, I am currently in conversation with him about that.
I know that modern greenhouse facilities and industrial hydroponics businesses rely heavily upon digital monitoring and control. I think it is critical to remaining competitive by providing a consistent enviroent for plants, in order to ensure a consistent product.
I am very interested in this practice for my aquaponics projects, for a number of different educational reasons:
1) system operation
Extracting data from an aquaponics system and creating a digital, historic catalog of data from one aquaponics system can give the system operator, and outsiders (students and teachers) a unique perspective on system performance. For example, I used the Kijani Grows system at the Heart Haus to track water temperature and air temperature over time. I could use the graphs of air temperature and water temperature to tell a story to my students about how the thermal mass of water takes longer to heat up and cool down, than the air. I also tracked data on water level, and could use this graph to demonstrate to students the need to replace water lost to evaporation on a regular basis.
2) connection between information technology and any modern industry, including agriculture
I believe students should be exposed to the most advanced technology in their field of study. Information technology is now present in every field of work. For one example, agricultural practice in the United States is dominated now by GPS and other information technologies, allowing farmers great precision in making decisions about inputs and outputs. Aquaponics should not be left out! Let’s give students the opportunity to do the same with fish and plants.
3) connectivity between aquaponics systems
If multiple “aquapons” collect the same categories of data using similar data collection practices, we can learn so much about each other’s systems!!! Now a greenhouse at a school in Chicago can compare the performance of their aquaponics system with that of my aquaponics system in a greenhouse in Baltimore. In real time!!!
Thereare other reasons I’m excited about this. These are just a few.
I want to introduce you to Morgan Courtney, copied on this email. Morgan is with an initiative called “Super Schools” with XQ Institute, based in California. They are providing tremendous resources to a select group of high schools throughout the country.
Community Engagement Manager
510–409–9205 / firstname.lastname@example.org / xqsuperschool.org
Morgan is visiting Milwaukee early next week, Monday 3/27 through Wednesday 3/29, and would like to see what you are doing in your schools, especially related to aquaponics.
Morgan, on this email are teachers/partners from high schools in Milwaukee that Sweet Water Foundation has worked with in the past, and is continuing to support as needed.
Joey Zocher, Nayla Bezares, Antonio Garcia
Rufus King IB HS
South Division HS
Bradley Tech HS
Ronald Reagan IB HS
Barack Obama SCTE HS
The Alliance School
Agenda for Parkside School for the Arts Aquaponics Training
April 6, 2017
Instructor: Jesse Blom
Aquaponics is an extraordinary living classroom tool that can engage students at all age levels and in all academic disciplines. This training will teach you to start, maintain, and continually improve an aquaponics project at your school.
Part 1 (completed in December 2017)
A) Introduction to aquaponics
B) Aquaponics system design to fit your space and purpose
Part 2 (April 2017)
C) Aquaponics system start-up and maintenance
Dave and Jesse’s new 2-credit summer institute course on Urban Ag and Public Health at the Food System Lab is now posted online.
Dates: Saturday-Sunday, June 10–11.
The Sweet Water experience in Milwaukee made him a perfect fit for their mission to awaken and train people to the possibilities of urban ag and aquaponics. Here’s a nice Johns Hopkins storyh on Jesse’s project.
Here is his announcement to his
I have been in touch with many of you about my next career and life steps, but here is an official written notice.
After finishing up my Master’s program at UW-Milwaukee, and completing a 2-year contract expanding aquaponics projects with Milwaukee Public Schools, I have taken a job at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore, MD, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
I have been hired to develop an educational program on food systems, using an urban agriculture / aquaponics greenhouse called the Food System Lab.
I’ve been in Baltimore for about a month, and my family and I are beginning to settle in.
I will remain involved with Sweet Water Foundation from here, continuing to support Milwaukee-based projects with the SWF team. Milwaukee is and will always be home for me and my wife, so I am sure I will be seeing you Milwaukee folks in the not-so-distant future.
Please stay in touch! My old professional and personal contact information will still reach me, but for the record here is my new professional contact:
Food System Lab Manager and Educator
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
I look forward to staying in touch with all of you.
James Godsil, Jesse Blom, Ben Koller, and Emmanuel Pratt at Sweet Water Foundation Workshop at Pratt’s and team’s School of the Art Institute show, “Outside Design” Aquaponocs Workshop.
SWF offers three primary services to schools and community partners, related to aquaponics:
1) Comprehensive teacher training in small-scale aquaponics systems
Training includes background knowledge of aquaponics, design and construction of aquaponics system, system start-up and ongoing operation and maintenance. Teachers are trained in research-proven methods of urban agriculture and aquaponics as related to a classroom environment.
2) Aquaponics installations
SWF staff is trained and experienced in state of the art aquaponics practices, and each installation reflects Sweet Water’s expertise in function and aesthetics.
3) Aquaponics consultation
In addition to training and installation, SWF staff is available on an ongoing basis to consult with teachers and administrators on the best way to manage aquaponics programs for the purpose of food production as well as curricular integration.
SWF has worked with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) as a community partner since 2010, and as a district-level contractor since 2014. We have installed aquaponics systems and provided extensive teacher/student support at with the following MPS schools: Bay View Middle School, Rufus King High School, Bradley Tech High School, South Division High School, Barack Obama SCTE, Ronald Reagan IB School, The Alliance School, Pulaski High School, Kilbourn Elementary School, and Trowbridge Elementary School.
Furthermore, we have supported more than 30 MPS teachers through our own teacher training programs, as well as through MPS Science Department’s aquaponics teacher cohort professional development program. SWF has worked with teachers across various disciplines, concentrating mainly on teachers of Biology and Special Education, while integrating the full range STEM disciplines throughout all of our training and curricula.
SWF also has significant experience with over 30 public, private, and charter schools outside of the MPS district – including schools in the Milwaukee area, the Chicago area, and throughout the country – engaging in very similar services. Recently, SWF has been identified by Chicago Public Schools as the primary community partner for aquaponics projects across the district.
Brief History of SWF Aquaponics Teacher Training Programs
During the 2011–2012 school year, SWF partnered with Milwaukee Teacher Education Center (MTEC) to deliver an aquaponics teacher training program to teachers at 4 Milwaukee schools (including 2 MPS schools – Rufus King HS, Bay View MD) and 1 Chicago school. This program was entitled the Milwaukee Aquaponics Expertise Development Initiative (MAEDI) and was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) SPECA program. The training program was implemented over the course of the school year, and included 7 training sessions for the teachers, as well as an entire semester of coaching support for teachers in their classrooms. Teachers were trained on the process of designing/constructing an aquaponics system, operating the system, and incorporating the system into their respective curricula.
Over the summer of 2012, SWF received a grant from NEA Foundation and AT&T Foundation to compile the curriculum that was developed as part of our teacher training. We compiled the curriculum from the various teachers and produced a lesson plan booklet for the project.
During the 2012–2013 school year, SWF delivered another teacher training program, funded be fees for services from participating teachers. This training built upon the success of the MAEDI project, and the content of the training was condensed and delivered over the period of 5 training sessions. Follow up support was provided to these teachers as well.
Concurrently, during the 2012–2013 school year, SWF was invited by the MPS Science Department to participate as a community partner in the Urban Schools Aquaponics (USA) professional development cohort (consisting of 10–20 MPS teachers). SWF provided support to this professional development series by co-hosting meetings with MPS and providing expert advice to MPS teachers.
In late 2012, SWF received a grant from the Macarthur Foundation to develop an online, badge-based aquaponics learning program. The project resulted in a website, www.aquapons.info , which was launched in the 2013–2014 school year.
Most Recent Project with MPS
SWF currently holds a two-year contract with MPS to expand the school district’s aquaponics initiative to five new schools, including three high schools and two elementary schools. SWF is contracted to train two teachers from each school on system design, construction, operation and maintenance, and to provide these teachers will all the supplies and materials necessary for installing an aquaponics system in the classroom. As of November 10, 2015, all five school aquaponics systems were completed and functioning very well. Please see enclosed photos of the aquaponics systems.
Dropbox available upon proper request.
Biography of key project personnel
Jesse Blom - SWF Milwaukee Director
Jesse Blom is a professional in the field of environmental science and education. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Dartmouth College in 2006, and has since worked for 10 years in the field. For several years, he worked as an outdoor and leadership educator, first with Camp Manito-wish YMCA in northern Wisconsin, and then with Global Youth Leadership Institute in Milwaukee. Since joining Sweet Water Foundation as Milwaukee Director in 2010, he has overseen all of SWF’s education and outreach programs in the Milwaukee area and beyond. He has built more than 20 aquaponics systems of various sizes for schools, community centers, and homes in the Milwaukee area, and has provided extensive support for the operators of these systems. He was the Principal Investigator for SWF’s largest aquaponics training project to date, a $175,000 grant for the development of a digital aquaponics learning program. Jesse is now pursuing a Master’s of Science degree at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences.
Barack Obama SCTE:
more updates, and more photos still to come. will start on system at Trowbridge School next week Monday.
We created a badge-based learning framework for beginners:
And aligned our training with Next Generation Science Standards at the high school level. 4-page summary attached.
Aquaponic Source has a curriculum for grades 3–6 (though it’s expensive):
I am beginning to integrate aquaponics practice with this high-school level curriculum on food systems:
Also, here is a link to Eric Maundu’s work on “smart gardens”:
These are good places to start. If you have any more questions, please let me know.
At this time we are not performing business studies or providing business consultation for aquaponics ventures. We are busy at work in Milwaukee and Chicago. You are always welcome to visit us in either location if you like.
Time and time again, our advice to new aquaponics practitioners is start small! We have also found great success in partnering with schools, community centers, universities to integrate a learning experience in with your farming practice. You will be amazed at the synergy of resources between your farming aspirations and their educational aspirations.
That’s all I can provide for now. Best of luck to you in your venture.
Sweet Water Foundation
Sweet Water Foundation is happy to announce that its Milwaukee City Director, Jesse Blom, has enrolled in graduate studies at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (UWM), while continuing to spearhead SWF’s Milwaukee efforts. Jesse entered the Professional Science Master’s program at the UWM School of Freshwater Sciences in September 2014. The School of Freshwater Sciences has a 50 year history for internationally renowned research of freshwater ecosystems. Jesse’s coursework will focus on freshwater aquaculture, utilizing the school’s state of the art recirculating and flow-through aquaculture labs that are primarily used for studying yellow perch.
He is also working as a Research Assistant for the UWM Center for Water Policy, analyzing the economic and policy implications of water science. This year, Jesse is stewarding the Center for Water Policy’s efforts to mobilize the community around Milwaukee’s status as an Innovating City with the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme. To this end, Jesse will be convening a cross-sectoral group from Milwaukee that includes representatives from public sector, private sector, and academia to organize activities around how the city can most effectively exchange information with other cities on the topic of water science.
SWF has been directly involved with the UN Global Compact Cities Programme since Milwaukee’s entry into the Programme in 2009, and remains in close contact with the Programme’s staff in Melbourne, Australia. Over the past two years, SWF has hosted two visiting scholars from Australia as a participant in the Global Compact Cities Programme - Julia Laidlaw of RMIT University in Melbourne, and Dr. Nick Rose of the Australia Food Sovereignty Alliance.
There are many academic studies of aquaponics to date. However, because the practice is still emerging, the data from which researchers can draw is very scarce. Here is a DropBox folder that I have used to compile various aquaponics studies over the years.
These include graduate student theses, published articles in scientific journals, and government reports - in other words, from relatively unbiased sources. They cover a broad range of topics within aquaponics, ranging from technical information to social benefits. It is not an exhaustive list of studies, but it is a start. There are certainly many more studies available, which perhaps others on this email list can suggest.
I am very glad that Chris Somerville posted his aquaponics manual from UN FAO. That is a fantastic resource. http://www.fao.org/3/contents/1dea3c92-1faa-47bb-a374-0cf4d9874544/i4021e00.htm
If you look in the “further reading” section of that manual, beginning on page 157, you will find a wealth of resources, including scholarly articles, that address some of the questions that you have asked.
Aquaponics equipment and resources
The Aquaponic Source offers products and services. Sylvia Bernstein’s book Aquaponic Gardening is, in my opinion, the best front-to-back introductory overview of aquaponics, which I use in all of my teacher training courses.
Bright Agrotech offers products, including the most popular vertical growing systems, Zip Grow towers. Bright Agrotech’s YouTube channel is my favorite source for detailed information on a broad spectrum of topics within aquaponics, which I use as an educational resource for my teacher training courses.
You already heard from David Li about his sensor project. We are also in close conversation with Kijani Grows about their aquaponics sensor kit. I have a grant application pending to incorporate both of these models into our existing aqauponics projects in Milwaukee.
Digital badges and online learning
Our Sweet Water AQUAPONS project, www.aquapons.info, which we started building over the course of one year - 2012–2013, has educational content and the beginnings of a badge-issuing platform. The content is built out for the Junior Apprentice level, which can be anyone over 12 years old who can build and operate a small 10–30 gallon aquaponics system. We intend for the program to grow to include 4 levels of mastery - the size of the system growing at every level as the “aquapon” acquires more skill and experience.
As I said, we have already submitted more than one request for funding the next stage of development of AQUAPONS - I am happy to send this information to you or whoever else that might interest.
I have been developing and overseeing aquaponics teacher training programs in Milwaukee and Chicago since 2010. I am now training my 4th cohort of teachers, a group of 10, through the program on a contract with Milwaukee Public Schools. I am attaching 3 items related to our teacher training:
1) a brief syllabus
2) “backbone” or training sequence
3) learning targets for teachers
The training module consists of 4–5 training sessions prior to the installation of the aquaponics system in the school. Each of the training sessions has a detailed agenda and accompanying Powerpoint slide deck.
School aquaponics installations
I have also been doing aquaponics installations in schools since 2010. Until recently, our aquaponics installations have been customized for each classroom. This has allowed a great degree of engagement by students and teachers in the design and build process, which is a great educational experience. However, now with a contract across the entire MPS district, I am developing a more standard model that complies with facilities requirements (floor load, electrical, material safety, etc). I always remain available to support teachers after we are finished with training and installation. Please see this photo slideshow of a few of my aquaponics installations to date (mostly schools, with 2 in community centers, and 1 in a home basement).
I have been compiling curriculum developed by teachers who use aquaponics in the classroom for a variety of different disciplines. I do my best to distribute this curriculum throughout our teacher network. We published a very rough compilation of aquaponics-related lesson plans by teachers from a variety of disciplines and age levels a few years ago, which you can see here. More recently, I aligned many of our aquaponics activities with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) - see attached. Our repertoire of curriculum is constantly growing, and this is another project ripe for development into a discrete “unit” or complete course.
Sweet Water Foundation
Our approach at Sweet Water Foundation is to start small and grow sequentially. Without experience and practice at a small scale, chances for success at a large scale are much less. So, we set up a website for those who are first learning about aquaponics. Check it out at www.aquapons.info. It should guide you through the construction of a 10–20 gallon aquaponics system.
Also, involvement of community resources such as school is central to our approach. The majority of our projects are educational, based in schools, colleges, and universities, which encourage community members to learn together. If you are interested in working with schools - that is certainly something we would be interested in helping with.
That’s about all the help I can give you right now as we are pretty stretched thin across various projects. Let me know if you have any questions.
Sweet Water Foundation
On May 11, 2014 11:23 PM, “Jesse Blom” <email@example.com> wrote:
Sweet Water Foundation does not have a hard-and-fast technology proposal to offer immediately to the Changzhou project.
Rather, we have a very effective, nuanced approach to community and economic development through urban agriculture, with a focus on aquaponics. This involves engaging multiple stakeholders, such as government, for-profit sector, non-profit sector, academia, youth education, and ordinary residents through captivating on-the-ground aquaponics demonstration projects.
Our approach has been very effective in the US and I think has a lot to offer many other countries around the globe. We launched a pilot project in India in 2012 as our first international outreach effort. See that here: http://growingnetworks.weebly.com/
Since then, we have continued to build contacts and partnerships internationally, including India, South Africa, Gaza, Australia, and many more.
David Li has spent several months, now, in conversation with us and we believe he understands our broad-based approach very well. We are actively building a partnership with David on the fusion of digital technology and aquaponics technology.
To this end, rather than rush into a proposal for Changzhou, we would like if you can engage in discussion with David - perhaps at your event in Beijing at the end of May - about Sweet Water Foundation and the various assets that we bring to bear. We trust him to figure out what might be the best way to promote our work for Changzhou and beyond.
I also hope that we (SAA and SWF) can keep up the email conversation to see where our collective work can take us :)
David and Manuela,
Today I spoke with Matt Ray about the Changzhou project. Matt has done a tremendous job developing a first-rate aquaponics project at a school here in Milwaukee (photos below). He has spent about 7 years refining his approach to aquaponics with educational function first, but also small-scale commercial capacity. He does not have time to take on the Changzhou project this summer, but is interested in doing something like that next summer (2015).
Matt, along with Emmanuel and myself, are the only 3 individuals (of Journeymon status) in our immediate Sweet Water circle that I would want to take on a project like the one in Changzhou. All 3 of us are completely occupied this summer, so cannot move quickly on the project. We have a much larger network of partners, which includes David Li, full of capable individuals to contribute to such a project.
I think a good approach to Sweet Water Foundation involvement in the project is to try to contribute remotely as much as possible. We have a good amount of informational material online at www.aquapons.info, which would benefit from being translated to Mandarin. We are good at providing timely technical support through our large network of aquaponics experts. And, we have an increasing amount of STEM-centered educational and training curriculum at our disposal.
We would be happy to host an individual or small team from Changzhou at our Academy in Milwaukee and Chicago, to train with other Aquapons to build capacity in designing, building, and operating these systems.
And we could work on setting the stage for a visit by SWF personnel to Changzhou sometime within the next 12 months.
This is, from my vantage, what we are able to offer at this point. Let me know what you think.
On Thu, May 8, 2014 at 11:13 PM, Dylan Barnard <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Great to e-meet you Jesse and thanks for the quick reply. David, we’re look forward to having you in Beijing to speak at the Columbia/SAA event.
Here are the answers to some of your great questions:
I’d be very interested to learn more about the opportunity in Changzhou, particularly who is involved, the nature of the project, and in what stage is the project currently.
The project is being developed with local government buy-in and driven by a local vice-mayor with agriculture responsibilities and the head of the local party committee - an internationally educated, bi-lingual local guy. They have a number of specific goals and target crops already, primarily focused on greenhoused medicinal and flower crops, though that mandate is flexible. SAA was brought in through contacts with a Shanghai-based group of international investors who have a long relationship with the local government guys, we are in direct communication with the Changzhou government as well as that other firm.
Is there an existing project in place? Is there a project already envisioned? Or do they need help with the vision as well?
The intended development area is over 800mu, however, the vast majority of the site is still greenfield. During our last visit in March, the project planned to break ground on phase one in early May. The first phase will be a demo area including glass greenhouses, a small office park, and some outdoor orchards/fountains/etc and is already funded in full. Further phases will need to attract outside investment partners, however the will and access is clearly in place. There is some vision in place already, but the local partners are very open to proposals, especially ones that are eco-friendly and generate a high-value horticultural output.
In short, we are certainly up for some more conversation. Do you have the information you need from the web to make a proper introduction? Let me know what else you might need from me.
As Manuela noted, the local government is already moving to break ground and is in a bit of a rush to get as many potential partners and options in place as possible. Ideally we need some basic marketing materials or a ppt deck on your approach (CN or bilingual would be ideal, if available). We’re confident you’ll be able to get more specific questions answered if they’re interested in your materials, tech, and approach when the proposal moves to the next stage.
Dylan Barnard 戴伦
Business Development Manager
From Smart Agriculture Analytics (Manuela’s company)
I have access for 10 days and in searching “aquaponics”, came across 4 short articles on aquaponics. I cut and pasted them here.
Aquaponics technology brings Chongqing RMB 520m profit over four years
Thu, 19 Jun, 2014 | Comments
Recently, the manager of the City Fisheries Technology Extension Station, Cao Yu, told reporters that this year the station has promoted aquaponics technology in ponds covering 50,000 mu in 24 counties. This technology is both highly energy efficient and increases productivity, and it was also awarded third prize for technological progress by the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences. Cao Rui has begun to raise fish and water spinach together, converting his fish farm into an aquaponics operation. The average yield of aquatic products is 1,294 kilograms/mu, which is a 48.75% increase compared to yields under fish farming alone. The average yield for vegetables is 893.1 kilograms/mu and average profit is RMB 4,684.7/mu. In addition, this technology can reduce the number of water changes required and antibiotics required, lowering the rate of disease occurrence and giving an indirect revenue increase of RMB 583.5/mu/year.
Original headline: 我市“鱼菜共生”技术4年获利5.2亿元
Source: 重庆日报 Chongqing Daily
Huwei township in Chongqing’s Fengdu county builds 200 mu aquaponics demonstration project
Wed, 18 Jun, 2014 | Comments
The township of Huwei, located in Chongqing’s Fengdu county, has constructed a 200 mu aquaponics demonstration project in its pilot area. The local government has also published detailed instructions on how local farmers should set up their individual aquaponics pools.
One farmer interviewed, Wang Xingfu, comes from one of the major fish farming families of the area. His family has set up 12 mu of aquaponics pools. Last year, the county sent experts to provide him with training in setting up his aquaponics pools, but, in an effort to save money, he didn’t follow the recommended standards. As a result, the floating platform used to grow the plants fell apart after only a few months as the fish ate through the protective net separating them from the crops. Learning his lesson, the next year he set up his system with steel reinforcements and a double net, including a tight-net to keep the fish out.
The aquaponics pools were so profitable that even when his system fell apart the previous year, he still made a nice profit on the whole. Profits went up considerably when he did things properly this year.
Original headline: 重庆丰都县虎威镇试点打造200亩“鱼菜共生”示范工程
Source: 重庆日报 Chongqing Daily
Aquaponics tech wins three awards from Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences
Fri, 28 Mar, 2014 | Comments
Aquaponics, or the system of growing plants and raising fish in a closed system, is grabbing the attention of provincial government aquaculture regulatory and technology departments. China’s Academy of Fishery Sciences has given three awards to the Chongqing Aquaproducts Technology Promotion Department for a large-scale aquaponics project that produced impressive results.
The total project covers 111,000 mu and produced 1,294 tons of aquaculture products worth RMB 19,331.8 per mu of land.
The whole project turned a profit of RMB 520m. The Chongqing project was run much more efficiently than most aquaculture production sites, and project managers estimate that they saved RMB 583.5 per mu in electricity, water, and human resources costs.
China’s Academy of Fishery Sciences has made an “aquaponics grown” label that will be placed on products produced using aquaponics technology. Additionally the institute has applied for the ‘aquaponics grown’ label to also count as a ‘green food’. Green food is one several classifications for safer food products in China and denotes a level of food production just below ‘organic’.
Original headline: 池塘鱼菜共生综合种养技术获中国水产科学研究院科技进步奖三等奖
Source: 重庆渔业信息网 Chongqing Fishery Information Web
“Aquaponics brother” lives out an agrarian dream
Wed, 04 Dec, 2013 | Comments
Aquaponics is both an old and extremely modern agricultural production method for China. The approach of cultivating crops together with fish or other aquatic organisms has been practiced for thousands of years in some rice-growing regions; today aquaponics systems are appearing in bedrooms and on rooftops of urban farmers in China’s megacities. Caijing magazine, a leading independent financial weekly, highlighted a former IT specialist who is working to establish the aquaponics industry in the city of Guangzhou. Yang Hui’s journey began as a hobbyist, but he soon discovered significant demand for small scale home aquaponics systems, and approached South China Agricultural University to establish a testing center for aquaponics. Yang Hui is now a partner in the Guangzhou Aquaponics Center and is receiving interest from investors, while working to establish and expand the urban farming movement across China.
Original headline: “鱼菜哥”的都市农耕梦
Source: 财经网 Caijing
9:04 AM (40 minutes ago)
to Jesse, emmanuel, me
The first 3 are basically floating NFT on top of fish ponds and grow only water spanich. The system has done well supplementing the fishery income in poor area like Chongqing. Typical Chinese carps take three years to grow.
The last one is a group based in Guangzhou. There are several groups around China making home use small aquaponics systems.
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee (UWM) School for Freshwater Sciences (aquaculture focus) - yes
Institute for Urban Agriculture and Nutrition (consortium of 7 universities) - yes
Growing Power (global mecca of urban agriculture) - yes
Walnut Way (neighborhood revitalization through urban agriculture and home rehabilitation) – yes
Victory Garden Initiative (non-profit focused on food production in residential gardens and orchards) - yes
Fondy Food Market (large urban farmer’s market serving low-income neighborhood on North Side) – yes
Central Greens (commercial aquaponics business) - yes
Fernwood Montessori School (large-scale aquaponics project housed within elementary school) – yes
CORE El Centro rooftop garden (healing-focused garden at health clinic, serving low-income neighborhood on South Side) – yes
Milwaukee Food Council (large 50+ member-based organization representing community food system) – yes
City of Milwaukee Home Gr/Own Initiative (based out of City’s Office of Sustainability - focusing on home foreclosure and food security crises) – yes
SWF empowers educators to use urban agriculture, and particularly aquaponics, as a hands-on, interdisciplinary educational tool that augments traditional curricula, and engages K-12 students in the STE(A+)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Agriculture, and Math) disciplines. We aim to channel this engagement to inspire success in higher education, development of career skills, and a lifelong interest in responsible citizenship.
And it is very important to note that SWF does not simply install aquaponics systems. We provide wrap around services including teacher training and ongoing coaching for students and teachers, so the system becomes an integrated part of their classroom and curriculum.
An example of this would be the recently acclaimed Bradley Tech HS, which invested $5,000 in the materials to build the aquaponics system in their greenhouse. SWF supplied all of the labor for not only designing and constructing the system, but involving students in the construction process - I sent some documentation of this in our previous communication. They also paid for two of their teachers to be trained by SWF at the beginning of the 2012 school year (total of $500).
We then provided ongoing coaching support, once per week to Rochelle and the students as they learned to operate their system. We also provided curriculum through our digital badges program to support Rochelle in her work. SWF’s staff time for the project was funded by Newman’s Own Foundation, and totaled around $3,500 in 2012–2013. We have probably invested $2,000 in staff time at Bradley Tech in 2013–2014. Not to mention the amount of time and money invested in developing our curricular projects which continue to support their work, which have been funded by NEA/AT&T Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.
Bradley Tech HS is SWF’s biggest project in Milwaukee. South Division HS is our second-largest project, where we invested $2,500 in materials and around $2,500 in staff time in 2012–2013, then $2,000 in staff time in 2013–2014. This was again funded by Newman’s Own Foundation.
We have worked on 11 other school aquaponics systems in Milwaukee and 3 systems in community centers in Milwaukee. We have trained over 20 teachers in Milwaukee through funding from USDA, through fees paid by schools, and through our own time invested in the development of this practice.
La Causa Charter School
Centro Hispano High School (now closed)
Fernwood Montessori School
Milwaukee Environmental Sciences
Glenwood Elementary School
Rufus King High School
Bradley Tech High School
South Division High School
Texas Bufkin Christian Academy
Bay View Middle School/High School
Center for Veterans Issues
Urban Ecology Center - Washington Park
Guest House of Milwaukee
Some of our projects are very simple and cost as little as $50 with a couple hours of SWF staff support to get things rolling - an example of one of those systems (built at Bay View HS) is attached to this email. This is usually a “starter” project for us to get a teacher comfortable with the operation, then we work our way up to projects at the scale of Bradley Tech HS and South Division HS.
We currently are co-hosting an art exhibit featuring aquaponics at the Arts@Large Gallery, featuring aquaponics systems that we built with Fernwood Montessori School and Milwaukee Environmental Sciences.
Our other accomplishments, including being recognized by the MacArthur Foundation for our aquaponics education work, can be found in our most recent Annual Report.
Toward this end, SWF offers four primary services to schools and community partners:
1) Comprehensive teacher training in aquaponics. Training includes background
knowledge of aquaponics, design and construction of aquaponics system, system start-up and maintenance, food safety, and curricular integration. Teachers are trained in research-proven methods of urban agriculture and aquaponics as related to a classroom environment.
2) Aquaponics installations. SWF staff is trained and experienced in state of the art aquaponics practices, and each installation reflects Sweet Water’s expertise in function and aesthetics.
3) Aquaponics consultation. In addition to training and installation, SWF staff is available on an ongoing basis to consult with teachers and administrators on the best way to manage aquaponics programs for the purpose of food production as well as curricular integration.
4) Online, badge-based curriculum for aquaponics. SWF is currently implementing a pilot version of an online curriculum for aquaponics, called AQUAPONS, during the 2013–2014 school year. The system uses a series of badges to motivate learning and to certify particular skills and proficiencies gained as learners practice aquaponics.
In the 4 years since its founding, SWF has affected more than 15,000 individuals with its programs. SWF opened a branch in Chicago in 2011, based at Chicago State University, and continues to expand its reach of services throughout the globe.
SWF has worked with MPS schools as a community partner since 2010. We have
installed aquaponics systems and provided extensive teacher/student support at with the following schools: Bay View Middle School, Rufus King High School, Bradley Tech High School, South Division High School, and Fernwood Montessori School.
Furthermore, we have supported more than 20 MPS teachers through our own teacher training programs, as well as through MPS Science Department’s aquaponics teacher cohort professional development program. These teachers have been from the following schools (in addition to the schools listed above): Gaenslen Elementary School, School for Career and Technical Education, MacDowell Montessori School, Vincent High School, Riverside High School, and MPS teachers placed at charter schools such as
SWF has worked with teachers across various disciplines, concentrating mainly on teachers of Biology and Special Education. This has required consistent commitment from SWF over the years, often lending teachers weekly consultation.
SWF also has significant experience with over 30 public, private, and charter schools outside of the MPS district – including schools in the Milwaukee area, the Chicago area, and throughout the country – engaging in very similar services.
Recently, SWF has been identified by Chicago Public Schools as the primary community partner for aquaponics projects across the district. Please see Exhibit B for a memo from CPS central office declaring this exclusive partnership with SWF.
SWF History of Aquaponics Teacher Training Programs
During the 2011–2012 school year, SWF partnered with Milwaukee Teacher Education Center (MTEC) to deliver an aquaponics teacher training program to teachers at 4 Milwaukee schools (including 2 MPS schools – Rufus King HS, Bay View MD) and
1 Chicago school. This program was entitled the Milwaukee Aquaponics Expertise Development Initiative (MAEDI) and was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secondary and Post-secondary Education
The training program was implemented over the course of the entire school year, and included 7 training sessions for the teachers, as well as an entire semester of coaching support for teachers in their classrooms. Teachers were trained on the entire process of designing/constructing an aquaponics system, operating the system, and incorporating the system into their respective curricula.
During the 2012–2013 school year, SWF delivered another teacher training program, funded be fees for services from participating teachers, which included teachers from Bradley Tech HS, South Division HS, and School for Career and Technical Education.
This training built upon the success of the MAEDI project, and the content of the training was condensed and delivered over the period of 5 training sessions. Follow up support was provided to these teachers as well.
Concurrently, during the 2012–2013 school year, SWF was invited by the MPS Science Department to participate as a community partner in the Urban Schools Aquaponics (USA) professional development cohort (consisting of 10–20 MPS teachers). SWF, along with Growing Power, provided support to this professional development series by co-hosting meetings with MPS and providing expert advice to MPS teachers. These services were provided pro bono by SWF to the MPS science department.
Comprehensive support for in-school aquaponics projects (Seed to Table)
Through generous funding from Newman’s Own Foundation every year since 2011, SWF has provided comprehensive support for various school aquaponics projects under its Seed to Table Project. In 2011–2012, these services were provided to Centro Hispano High School. In 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 the services have been directed to Bradley Tech HS and South Division HS.
The Seed to Table Project consists of aquaponics installations at each of these schools, coupled with ongoing support for teachers and students at each school to maximize the productivity of their aquaponics systems and to maximize the integration of the aquaponics system into classroom curriculum. Furthermore, food from the aquaponics systems is harvested and served to an audience of parents, teachers and community members. The success of SWF’s Seed to Table Project at Centro Hispano HS has been documented on WUWM’s Lake Effect program and its work at Bradley Tech HS was recently highlighted at the MPS press conference for the NEA / AT&T Foundation grant towards its aquaponics program.
We have ~50 teachers in Milwaukee, Chicago and beyond who are actively using aquaponics as a hands-on, project-based teaching tool in their classrooms. SWF has developed an extensive protocol for introducing aquaponics into the school environment, we have a great track record, and we know that aquaponics works well for teaching the STE(A+)M disciplines. Our teachers are in great need of curriculum that integrates this new teaching tool into their district standards. So, we have initiated an informal network of curriculum sharing between teachers and we are working with the Milwaukee and Chicago Public School districts to make aquaponics a central focus of Science and Career and Tech Ed curricula. I believe that UClass could be the tool that we need for teachers to share their aquaponics curriculum with each other in an organized manner. We would be interested in free sharing of curriculum, while giving teachers the option to also buy and sell their curriculum in the UClass marketplace.
Option #1) Aquaponics system with two grow beds (each bed measures 4 ft long X 3 ft wide - total of 24 square feet), which will hold around 100 plants at any given time. Given a 50-day grow cycle (optimistic, but doable) for salad greens, this could yield as much as 2 plants per day for harvest. This system will require a 180 gallon fish tank (not 55–75 gallons, as I originally showed on the sketches - miscalculation on my part).
Total cost estimate: $4,468
Option #2) Aquaponics system with one grow bed, same as described above. One grow bed will hold 50 plants, so potentially 1 plant harvest per day if growing salad greens. This system will require a 75 gallon fish tank.
Total cost estimate: $3,174
Option #3) Hydroponics system with two grow beds, same as described in #1 above. This system will not require a fish tank.
Total cost estimate: $2,945
For your reference, I am including a link to (in my opinion) the best commercially available small-scale aquaponics system that compares in size to the first system I propose (24 square feet of grow space). Note that the cost shown at the link does not include accessories, lights, or even stands on which the system will be held, etc. - you can see those costs by scrolling down on the options shown.
Our estimates do include those accessory costs. And the primary difference in our set-up would be that it is customized to your space, and our fish tank is a glass display, rather than an opaque tank below the grow beds (not for display). Another great added benefit is that we will be there the whole way, to coach you through the process, and be very supportive.
I do not have any recommended hydroponics systems that would compare to ours, but I imagine the costs would be along the same lines as the aquaponics system referenced above.
Todd, thanks so much for contacting us and Dr. Muhammad, pleasure to meet you over email!
Your questions are very good ones, as mentor-based assessment is at the heart of the Aquapons badge system.
Here are some answers briefly to your questions (below in red). I am happy to follow up in more detail either by email or by phone.
1) They commented that they have yet to receive any feedback on their badge completion as indicate that they would by a mentor of sorts. Lynne would like to know if there will be any feed back and if so when?
Yes, the Aquapons badge system is designed for mentors to issue badges to learners at lower levels. The crux here is that we are in the pilot stage of the badge program, and we are in need of BOTH mentors and badge earners.
What we have been doing in classrooms this school year is assigning the TEACHER AS THE MENTOR. Therefore, the teacher is responsible for reviewing the badge submissions, and either ACCEPTING or REJECTING the badge submissions, based upon whether the learner has achieved the learning objectives for each badge.
I am happy to schedule a coaching session over the phone, in which I can walk you through the process of reviewing badges.
2) As a teacher, do I have access to what my students are submitting? Is there a way that I can grade them, based on their submissions, not just that they have completed each unit?
We have created a user type in the Aquapons system for teachers, called “Instructor”. In fact, I have now assigned you to Instructor status. As an Instructor, you can create a “Class” by clicking on a link in the top right corner of the page that says “Your Classes” (you must be signed in to Aquapons to see this).
When you click on “Your Classes”, you are then able to create a Class, give it a name, a category, and then add your students to your class. You must add your students to the class by entering their email addresses that they have used to register for Aquapons. In order for your students to be added, they must already be registered on Aquapons. It seems that your students have already done this.
Once you have added the students to your class, you can see their badge submissions by clicking on the link in the upper right that says “Submissions”. Through this link, you will be able to review what each student has submitted and either accept or reject each badge submission.
As I said, I am happy to walk you through this in more detail by email or phone. Please let me know!!
Sweet Water Foundation
Jesse Blom - SWF City Director, Milwaukee
Jesse Blom earned a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Dartmouth
College in 2006, and has since pursued a career in the field of experiential education. For several years, he worked as an outdoor and leadership educator, first with Camp Manito-wish YMCA in northern Wisconsin, and then with Global Youth Leadership Institute in Milwaukee. A student and practitioner of collaborative leadership theory, Jesse has developed a wide range of group facilitation skills. He has practiced these skills with a
diverse array of students and teachers from many parts of the world. His work has taken him to New Mexico, Ontario, Costa Rica, and the Netherlands – among other places.
Since joining Sweet Water Foundation in 2010, he has specialized in the “human” aspects of urban farming. As City Director of SWF Milwaukee, he oversees Sweet Water’s education and outreach programs, as well as farming operations. Jesse looks forward to working with the Milwaukee community and the Sweet Water team to make Sweet Water an international model for urban agriculture in post-industrial cities, while creating economic prosperity, social benefits and environmental sensibility.