The Main Stream

May 17, 2010 1:47 PM

UA program using fish to grow veggies

TUCSON - Call UA Professor Kevin Fitzsimmons "Aquaman." He and UA students are using fish waste to grow heads of lettuce, basil and cucumbers. It's a process known as "aquaponics," which starts with feeding tilapia twice a day.

From there, water with the fish waste is put through a filter, which separates the good waste from the bad. Then pipes carry it into the greenhouses to feed the plants.

Fitzsimmons said, "The nitrates, the phosphates, go to the roots of the plants. Even the broken up fecal matter gets trapped in the roots of the plants and bacteria break that down, the plants use that up."

After this process, the water is cleaned and sent back into the fish tanks to be re-used. "We use very little water; only what the plant absorbs to grow the plant. We're not losing any of it peculating down into the ground and we're not losing it evaporating into the sky," Fitzsimmons said.

While some think this is the future of growing produce, for Harvest Restaurant, the future is now. Chef Colin King said, "We're signed on for the tilapia, the Bibb lettuce and basil. I just made a wish list with them today where I'm hoping to get some mint, English peas and anything else really that they can produce."

It's a green approach that's making even greener produce.

To see what the UA Agriculture Department is working on in their greenhouses, visit: http://ag.arizona.edu/ceac/tomlive/

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