Alberta: Increase of aquaponic systems built in public facilities

Sustainable agriculture, food security, and aquaponics were on the menu at the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs online session Thursday. The guest speaker was Michael Lavorato, who began working in aquaponics over the last five years to promote and enhance sustainable food systems. Since then, Lavorato has built over 40 aquaponics systems across Alberta in schools, libraries, and continuing care facilities.

In his half-hour presentation, Lavorato spoke of growing aquaponics in southern Alberta and educating students on the growth method combining agriculture and hydroponics.

Lavorato said he also comes in and teaches biology and the chemistry aspects of aquaponics. “The nitrogen cycle is something all students can grasp. The system is all graspable, biological concepts. Our society comes in and teaches students about fish health and the data they can keep on their fish. Some systems keep the fish for food and most keep them for pets. This is just something that adds to the community aspect of the school as well.

“We teach students how to germinate in these systems as well, how to grow plants in this method, and it’s all something that, after a year of help with these systems, the schools usually take over and they can take care (of it) themselves going forward.”

Lavorato said there are also social values of aquaponics he never predicted. “I liked science and the ability of aquaponics, but the social value is something that is mindfulness, the meditational value around the systems and the fish. Just having a live animal in schools, a lot of students use the system to self-regulate. They’re allowed to go out and sit around the system for 15 or 20 minutes, come back into the class and then go back out when they need to center. That’s something I didn’t predict, but something I really like seeing in the schools. They’re something we’ve put in common rooms or libraries, they become kind of a community thing.”

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