Latest news on the CLEVER Cities project
9 August 2022
Hamburg High School Students Fish for Learning
9 August 2022
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are not only good for the environment and human health, but can form the foundation of creative and lucrative business models. CLEVER Cities Hamburg is bringing this knowledge to schools by linking NBS to academic science content, the agricultural industry, and water purification. How? Aquaponics!
Aquaponics are an economically viable farming system where aquaculture, the cultivation of fish or aquatic plants for food production, and hydroponics, the cultivation of plants in a nutrient rich water solution, are combined. This approach to food production, fish below and fruits and vegetables above, is especially important in regions where space and water are limited resources. While aquaponics may sound new, the practice is over 1000 years old. Earliest records of this form of agriculture point to the Aztecs in what is modern day Mexico, and farmers in what is now south China.
CLEVER Cities Hamburg, in partnership with the Stadtteilschule (High School) Fischbek-Falkenbek, entrepreneur and aquaponics expert Leif Lorenzen, Steg, and the local District Council, has continued this long tradition by financing two mobile aquaponics systems for use in local classrooms. Because economically viable aquaponics systems are typically constructed at the industrial scale, adapting to the classroom scale required a new design. The local aquaponics expert drew up a plan for a system that is roughly the size of a school desk, can easily move between classrooms, and fits in an elevator and between classroom doors.
Over the course of two days, students constructed the aquaponics systems, following the guidance of a teacher and local small-scale aquaponics expert. Students built and painted the aquaponics beds, selected fish and plants, and considered how aquaponics might be integrated into the curriculum. The ultimate goal is for these mobile systems to serve as an interactive and engaging learning tool across subjects for students of all ages. This process fostered a sense of ownership for the mobile aquaponics systems, and can easily be adapted to other school communities.
While students are out on summer break, aquatic bacteria capable of breaking down the ammonia produced by fish will be added to the system and given time to flourish. When students return in the fall and add fish and plants to the system, these bacteria will turn ammonia into plant-ready nutrients–cleaning the water and fertilizing produce. Students will closely co-monitor the health of the fish and the growth of the edible plants. If all goes well, students will be able to harvest greens at the end of the semester, outside of the standard growing season. Meanwhile, the local aquaponics expert will compile a manual for replicating these aquaponic systems across Europe. Students and teachers will contribute tips for safety and maintenance, drawing from their first hand experience. Ultimately, this project hopes to serve as an example for how meaningful NBS with lasting impacts can be created with limited budget and space.
Hamburg Aquaponics by "Leif Lorenzen"