Dr. Nicholas Romano, Extension specialist and interim director of the Center of Excellence in Aquaculture and Fisheries at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), has received a $109,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) to conduct aquaponic research for two years. The project will investigate the use of freshwater aquaponics in the production of high-value fish and plants, including herbs, vegetables, and flowers.

“Last year, three aquaponic studies were conducted at UAPB,” Dr. Romano said. “However, with this research agreement, I will be able to fund a doctoral apprenticeship and research assistant for aquaponic research. This should greatly improve our productivity and train more people in this important field.”

Dr. Romano said aquaponics is the combined farming of fish and plants. In an aquaponics system, fish waste provides essential nutrients to the plants.

“More research is needed to optimize the production of fruit such as strawberries using these systems, he said. “One of the challenges in growing fruit is that flowering is often suppressed due to high nitrate levels in the systems and potential limitations in one or several key micronutrients. Therefore, my research will focus on the micronutrient levels and using several plant species to help keep nitrate levels low.”

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