US (AL): Auburn's College of Agriculture aquaponics its own lettuce

Imagine you’re a student at Auburn’s College of Agriculture—you work inside an air-conditioned freight car that grows pounds of lettuce, and in the dining hall, your friends are eating salads that you grew.

When you walk into Auburn’s aquaponics facility, you’ll see lots of fish tanks and tomato plants, but you may not realize the creative ways the facility utilizes waste.

As a professor of Biosystems Engineering, Dr. Brendan Higgins knows how to put waste to good use. “In Biosystems Engineering, we take waste products and turn them back into something good. When we apply horticulture to that process, we utilize wastes to grow plants,” said Dr. Brendan Higgins, Associate Professor, Biosystems Engineering, Auburn University

This is how it works at Auburn’s aquaponics facility: The tilapia excrete waste, and the tank’s microbial community transforms this waste into nutrients used to grow plants. The microbial community is the key player here and is sometimes called “the magic sauce” by aquaponics researchers. This sustainable process allows Auburn to further their hands-on research and provide tasty farm-to-table fish and veggies for on-campus dining.


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