Aquaponics as a Gateway: The Partnership’s Urban Food Lab

Over the past year, The Partnership CDC has worked diligently to create an aquaponics lab in West Philadelphia. Located in a small area in the back of The Partnership’s building on 4020 Market Street, the Urban Food Lab it is an intricate system that connects plants and fish through various tubes and pumps.

The lab is a self-sustaining food source: the system uses nutrient-rich water from fish (Tilapia) to feed the plants. The plants then filter the water for the fish.

A large-scale version of the project is in the works on 60th Street, with an estimated completion date of 2013 or 2014. At this location, the indoor farm is estimated to produce the equivalent of a 2.5 acre farm per year. Also, the project will create numerous jobs, stimulating the economy in the area.

Not only does this create jobs and food for the community. Wanting to create more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities for students in West Philadelphia, The Partnership and Cheyney University are working together to create after school and Saturday programs with area schools. Previously working with Drew, Lea, and Locke Elementary schools for the Healthy Homes Initiative, The Partnership hopes to extend this work by including aquaponics education. The curriculum will include observation, measurement, and robotics skills with a focus on aquaponics application.

A week long pilot program this summer gave some students from the area an opportunity to use the Cheyney Lab and Urban Food Lab for measuring and observation. Steven Williams, Executive Director of The Partnership, says that “aquaponics is like a gateway. It touches a lot of science, like math, chemistry, and robotics. It opens kids up to possibilities other than just numbers in a book.”

For more information about the Urban Food Lab at The Partnership, go to http://www.partnershipcdc.wordpress.com.

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