Sweet Water Aquapons (AQUAPONS)


Aquaponics is the the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a closed-loop water system. It highlights the critical connection between fresh water and food production by using up to 80–90% less water and space than traditional farming methods with less inputs and more outputs. Furthermore, given the global economic crisis impacting cities and the increase in global population, cities are increasingly looking towards aquaponics as an emerging 21st century industry that might offer a diverse range of emerging career paths.

The city of Milwaukee, WI has recently been highlighted for its innovations in the realm of water. With its recent induction into the United Nations Global Compact Cities Programme, Milwaukee continues to establish itself as a “water hub” with the presence of such entities as the Water Council working to align the fresh water research community and water-related industries. Milwaukee is also home to an internationally acknowledged concentration of leaders in aquaponics, and more broadly, urban agriculture.

Building upon this momentum, Milwaukee was recently highlighted as one of 24 cities chosen internationally to participate in the IBM Smarter Cities™ Challenge around the theme of Smarter Cities Feed Themselves. As acknowledged in IBM’s final report to the Mayor of Milwaukee:

“Feeding a city is about more than just food, however. It is also about feeding people through job creation, neighborhood revitalization and public safety, providing outreach to the community, providing education about healthy eating, eliminating stretches of urban food deserts, providing vocational training to children, stimulating innovation and technology, and supporting higher education and research”

IBM, Smarter Cities Challenge: Milwaukee Summary Report

However, since the industry is at its nascent stage, aquaponics has yet to become a part of mainstream K-12 education, collegiate level education, and job training programs.Thus, there remains a great need to create a system that will provide structure for development of skill sets in aquaponics.

Sweet Water Foundation (SWF)’s existing aquaponics training program will be significantly enhanced by a well-designed badge administration system, which will allow SWF to accelerate learning in the field of aquaponics in Milwaukee and Chicago, and to extend the reach to our partners throughout the world.
[image: IBM, Smarter Cities Challenge: Milwaukee Report 18]


This proposal utilizes content proposed in our Stage 1 DML submission.

Aquaponics consists of various CONTENT areas. In our Stage 1 submission, we identified 9 aquaponics content areas. In order to provide more SCARCITY of badges, we are now identifying four main content areas:

  • Fish
  • Plants
  • Water
  • Design and Construction

Each of these main content areas will consist of four LEVELS of learning and proficiency:

  • Advanced Beginner
  • Competent Performer
  • Proficient Performer
  • Expert

These levels of learning and proficiency will be rigorously assessed, based on a rubric of demonstrable SKILLS in each content area, as displayed in the diagram below.

Obtaining AQUAPONS badges will be a DYNAMIC process of performance-based assessments, based on achievements and testimonials that are uploaded to a web-based technology system, described below in this proposal.

AQUAPONS may have various ROLES and IDENTITIES. Our primary audience is students and teachers in K-12 schools. However, the badges are structured so that any individual in any part of the world can earn and achieve an AQUAPONS badge through SWF.

Example Scenario

A high school Chemistry teacher, trained by SWF, decides to implement a more robust data collection system for her aquaponics system. She purchases water chemistry data sensors, which when linked to a database and uploaded to the SW web platform, can be transformed into visualizations that enhance her teaching practice. She can demonstrate cause-effect relationships to her students through visual tools, and share her results on SWF’s social collaboration learning platform.

Video footage of the teacher explaining her system, along with photographs of the system and a written summary of her successes are uploaded to her profile on the SWF web platform.

Based on this teachers’ performance, SWF personnel award the teacher a Proficient Performer badge in Water.

Example Badge Breakdown: Expert Water Badge

The Expert Water badge recognizes an AQUAPON who manages water quality effortlessly in order to ensure system health.

An Expert Water AQUAPON is someone who:

Uses water quality data collected over time to show trends and inform decisions about operations

Tests water chemistry using measurement methods that work best for the efficiency of each particular aquaponics operation

Identifies signs of water chemistry imbalance, hypothesizes causes of imbalance, confirms with appropriate tests

Develops a “feel” for pH stability and has a plan for maintaining neutral pH

Regulates water flow and water temperature to maximize growing efficiency, stabilizing plant, bacteria, and fish populations

Uses best water filtration patterns for organism health and efficiencies of growing operations

Takes on apprentices/interns studying water, sharing knowledge while increasing his/her work efficiency

Assessment Details:

Learners will seek out the badge and submit work for assessment.

Proficiency will be based upon uploaded files - video testimonial, photos, written journal entries, and published white papers

With the submitted work, the learner must submit a paragraph describing why they are pursuing the Expert Water badge

Example Video Submission for Badge Assessment

This video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF-YCp09D_0 exemplifies a learner’s submission to SWF for badge assessment in the area of Design and Construction.


​SWF will provide exemplary submissions for each badge level, viewable on its public web site, so that prospective AQUAPONS as well as the general public will TRANSPARENTLY see the requirements necessary to achieve a badge. SWF will work with its strong network of educational and business partners to ensure that AQUAPONS badges align with the diverse needs of these partner institutions. The newly formed Aquaponics Association will provide a key ENDORSEMENT of AQUAPONS badges, along with other supportive institutional partners.

Many of the learning areas in aquaponics are directly ​PORTABLE ​ to other academic disciplines or career paths. For example, a badge in Water could be translated to municipal water management, or a badge in Plants could be translated to a career in horticulture and landscaping.

Technology Learning Platform

Our technology system will build apps that use open-source systems as data repositories. With the assistance of SmartWave, SWF will build a learning interface that will use functionality that exists in our three core systems:

  • Learning Management System (LMS)

  • Social Collaboration Platform

  • Public Web Site

The learning interface will store the badge data unique to SWF and Milwaukee (metadata) and will be the interface to the Open Badge Infrastructure (OBI). While we have evaluated several options for our core systems, the final selection will depend on an evaluation process based on timeliness and budget. All software solutions we evaluate are compliant with open cloud standards, which includes open-source standards. Our current model (indicated above) is that courses, projects and content pertaining to learning will be stored on an LMS (i.e. Moodle, Sakai, Google CloudCourse). Much of the early development and peer-supported learning wil occur on the collaborative social learning platform (i.e. Edmodo, Edgulu, Bloomfire, elgg). The public web site is likely to be a simple, open source platform that is easy to use such as Wordpress or Concrete5. A custom extension/plugin and interface will be developed that feeds and/or displays select student information. This will allow students to manage their badge and performance portfolio (“dossier”) and how it is displayed within the LMS, the Social Platform and the Public Site (i.e. security, privacy); the code for the plugins will be made available (open-source), allowing it to be further extended for use in other systems.

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on November 10, 2012

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