US (NC): Aquaponics make a vegetable donation at UNC Charlotte

UNC Charlotte's Aquaponics Club built an aquaponic system to grow their food inside Cameron Hall. On Nov. 14, Sophia Ritter, Sophie Barnett, and their team of 26 volunteers from the club harvested 18 heads of lettuce and 443 grams of arugula that were then donated to the Jamil Niner Student Pantry. This club hopes to improve sustainability efforts at UNC Charlotte.

Aquaponic systems are made up of fish that produce waste that plants use as fertilizer to grow. Such systems allow food to grow with a small percentage of the water typically used in soil-based agriculture.

According to Ritter, the UNC Charlotte system uses about 98% less water than what would be used to grow the vegetables in soil. The aquaponics system has the capacity for 50 plants and ten fish. According to Ritter, domesticated Tilapia were chosen for their smaller size and ability to produce ammonia.

In the fall of 2022, Ritter and Barnett attended the Sustainability Summit held in Charlotte and were inspired to create a sustainable produce source for Charlotte. In January 2022, Ritter and Barnett had their project approved and funded by the Charlotte Green Initiative.

Barnett said, "I know I'm grateful for the wonderful resources. Most people would probably be skeptical of the roadblocks, but they helped us get through."

Ritter and Barnett were previously interested in environmental efforts before the Summit due to their Environmental Studies majors. With help from faculty like Dr. Sandra Clinton and Professor Andrew Goff, the project went underway in May 2022.

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