Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016IN394B

Water and nutrient recovery from aquaculture effluents through vegetable production

Institute: Indiana
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $53,892

Principal Investigators: Hye-Ji Kim, Paul Brown, Cary Mitchell, Robert Rode

Abstract: Population increases and dietary pattern shifts are placing significant new demands on food production systems, imposing considerable pressure on agricultural resources. Aquaculture provides 50% of all fish consumed worldwide, and it is estimated to account for 62% of the worlds fish supply for human consumption by 2030 (FAO, 2014). However, aquaculture produces huge volumes of wastewater containing nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), considered to be environmental pollutants, leading to eutrophication of surface water and contamination of groundwater. Recent changes to federal regulatory requirements (US EPA, 2004) have placed compliance pressure on the aquaculture industry, and therefore, its future expansion depends on effective management of aquaculture wastewater effluents. Aquaponics is a highly integrated system simultaneously producing two cash crops, fresh fish and plant crops, in a recirculating ecosystem by converting aquaculture wastewater into plant nutrients for crop prodcution. Our objective is to critically explore utilizing aquaculture wastewaters as sustainable water and mineral nutrient sources for food crop production, while minimizing environmental impacts. We will grow vegetable crops with different morphological characteristics and quantify N and P removal by evaluating their conversion efficiency of environmental pollutants into valuable nutrient resources for biomass production. We will also provide scientific evidence to help develop strategies for economically and environmentally viable food-production systems through critical mass-balance studies using different combinations of crops. The findings will also help aid in developing guidelines for aquaponic design, operation, and management in Indiana and the U.S. as well as other parts of the world. Upon successful completion of this proposed project, it is expected that the socioeconomic status of US farmers and the aquaculture industry can be improved, resulting from reduced dependence on fish import. It will also significantly increase the sustainability of Indiana crop-production systems, while protecting its fragile environment.