Tarleton professor awarded grant to study aquaponics

TSU Newsroom

STEPHENVILLE — Tarleton State University Professor Dr. Hennen Cummings has received a grant of almost $300,000 to research aquaponic farming practices.

Tarleton State University Professor Dr. Hennen Cummings has received a grant of almost $300,000 to research aquaponic farming practices.

“I am very proud of the work Dr. Cummings and his students are doing to advance the science of aquaponic food production,” said Dr. Barry Lambert, Dean of Tarleton’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “This project will help move the needle for the aquaponics industry, which plays an ever-increasing role in providing a safe and abundant food supply to a growing world population.”

The project — Combing Replicated Large-Scale Aquaponic Media Bed Research and Producer-Based Extension to Address Critical Issues of Aquaponic Producers — is sponsored by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I love to roll up the door to the Tarleton aquaponics Hydrotron in front of visitors,” Dr. Cummings said. “We show them the future of agriculture — lettuce growing in towers where the production per square foot is tremendous, and it’s happening in urban areas.”

In aquaponic farms, fish fertilize plants, and the plants filter the fish water, all in a recirculating loop. Aquaponics uses the same water over and over, requires only a few inputs, and generates very little waste. Aquaponics is one the most sustainable, organic methods of farming.

Dr. Cummings’ project has four objectives: Investigate using Mexican scud, small freshwater invertebrates, to reduce fish solid waste and plant matter and increase nutrient solubilization within the media; evaluate aerobic biodigestion (mineralization) for orthophosphate recovery from fish effluent with and without the presence of scud; evaluate black soldier fly larvae as a feed supplement and decomposer of unusable fish and plant parts generated in aquaponics; and evaluate plant growth-promoting microorganisms (PGPM) in aquaponic media bed systems.