Investigates hydroponics, aquaponics as a way to feed the world
PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD – Hydroponics and aquaponics are two techniques being studied at Bowie State University to expand world food capacity. In the BSU greenhouse at the BSU Center for Science, Mathematics and Nursing, tomatoes, lettuce and basil are about to be harvested, and recently planted seedlings have been added to an environment with tilapia fish. The aim is to simultaneously grow plants and fish in the same water-based agricultural system.
Bowie State’s SMART Agriculture Program integrates hydroponics and aquaponics technology into the plant science curriculum. Dr. Anne Osano, Associate Professor, Faculty of Natural Sciences, leads the program together with the chairman of the faculty, Dr. George Ude, and Dr. George Acquaah, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences. Hydroponics is a technique used to grow and produce food crops in a closed loop system that reduces the consumption of water resources without the need for chemical fertilizers. Aquaponics is the integrated culture of fish, plants and beneficial microorganisms grown in a soilless environment.
Osano explained that fish and plants grow in an ecosystem and eliminate the waste they produce separately, turning it into something useful. The waste generated by the fish becomes a food source for beneficial microorganisms, which convert it into mineral nutrients for the plants. The plants act as a natural filter and purify the water for the fish. It’s essentially zero waste farming.
The program, which focuses on studying the production of superfoods without the use of traditional agriculture, is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“This program is necessary because not everyone has that much land to produce their own food, and this technology is simple enough to help them become self-sufficient,” Osano said. “I tell these students that maybe you are the very person who one day will feed the world.