Our aim is to introduce people of all ages to the indoor method of growing healthy produce year around known as aquaponics. Aquaponic systems use live fish and their waste as fertilizer to grow fruits, leafy vegetables and herbs in a natural way. This method supplements traditional gardening & farming.
Aquaponics is the combination of the words Aquaculture - (raising fish for food) and Hydroponics - (growing plants without soil - water only). It is a method of gardening indoors or outdoors that allows people to grow vegetables, herbs, fruits and decorative plants + fish at the same time, all in a closed system. Aquarium fish waste provides nutrients/fertilizer for the plants. As the plants grow, the water is filtered. The clean water is returned back to the fish!
Aquaponics is not a new food production method. Humans have harvested the example of the water/fish/plant relationships for agriculture for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians grew food and fish in an elaborate system along the Nile rivers. In southeast Asia, flooding the rice fields brought in fish that provided fertilizer. The fish ate insect pests and improved oxygen circulation. The Aztecs of ancient Mexico built floating gardens called Chinampas on canals full of fish. The floating gardens were anchored by willow trees and produced beans, squash, tomatoes, pepper, corn and fruits for feed a population of 250,000.
Aquaponics allows students of all ages to grow plants in a soil-less environment and see how year ‘round food production is possible and interesting! Our team has created an original curriculum with fun, hands-on activities that focus on STEAM concepts (science-technology-engineering-art-math). We have taught many 4th-12th graders at Boys & Girls Clubs in southern Colorado, Girl Scouts, public school students, and even university interns. Currently, the public can view and learn about aquaponics by visiting our custom exhibits on display at Campbell’s Greenhouse, Villa Bella Expeditionary School, and the Buell Children's Museum, all in Pueblo, Colorado. Plans are in the works to expand exhibits and lessons statewide, and partner with culinary and agriculture education programs.
The tilapia above, “Pearl the Survivor” is currently on display in our custom aquaponic system tank at Campbell’s Greenhouse. Pearl arrived in our design lab in 2018, has thrived and tripled in length! She is a handsome example and a good teacher. Tilapia are commonly raised in large commercial aquaponic systems as a food fish. They are ideal due to their medium size, hardiness, good tolerance to a variety of temperatures, easy spawning, and neutral, soft meat. The IFIZ team has experimented with a variety of fish species. Our tanks are breeding and raising small cichlids, koi, Plecostomus (algae eaters), guppies and mollies. These ornamental fish are good choices in decorative systems, and the colorful guppies are well-suited to thrive in our 3-gallon minitanks, currently used for teaching youth.
In the 21st century, the world faces many environmental crises, struggling with issues like drought and flooding, and record-setting heat waves related to climate. There are energy challenges and severe food shortages. Twentieth century agricultural techniques have harmed the environment and consume a huge amount of energy and water. Many countries lack the large amounts of available land and water needed to sustain growing human populations. Developed nations use large amounts of chemical pesticides and artificial fertilizers to grow their grains, fruits, and vegetables. The I Will Projects believes introducing communities to innovative and complementary methods of growing food, like aquaponics and vertical farming, offers sustainable alternatives, encourages problem solving and improves well-being.
The I Will Projects partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of Pueblo County to offer S.T.E.A.M. enrichment at clubhouses in southern Colorado. A large grant awarded by NASA provided 150 youth participants with their own aquaponics grow kit, live fish and 6 weeks of live and virtual instruction from IFIZ educators.