Traverse City students build aquaponic system in class

Two students work together to build a small-scale aquaponic.
Four students worked together to build a small-scale aquaponic as part of the Wicked Problems of Sustainability course.
Image Credit: Courtesy

With some up-cycled materials and a goal to reduce food miles, four students from Grand Valley's Traverse City Regional Center built a small-scale aquaponic system to grow food.

An aquaponic system uses excrement from fish or other aquaculture as fertilizer for the plants growing in a fish tank.

Students Brittany Bolger, Autumn Anderson, Chelsea Cooper and Sunny Charpentier were inspired by the intersection of energy and food production. They chose to build an aquaponic system to grow basil, lettuce and strawberries.

The project was part of a course, Wicked Problems of Sustainability, taught by Kate Fairman, a part-time liberal studies faculty member.

Fairman said students collaborated with the agriscience program in the Traverse Bay Area School District’s Career Tech Center, where an instructor there was using a commercial-size aquaponic in class. Grand Valley students installed their small-scale aquaponic system in the classroom, where career tech center students can continue to monitor it. 

“The (Grand Valley) students are very excited about implementing the small experiment and collaborating with the community, bringing a new awareness to urban farming techniques,” Fairman said. 

The Grand Valley students shared their project with local distributor Cherry Capital Foods, and hope to connect with area restaurants. 

“One of the big takeaways is these small experiments can have a ripple effect in not only their lives, but also their community,” she said.