The Aquaponics Association is hosting its 2018 Putting Up Shoots Conference in Hartford, running Friday through Sunday, and will feature a tour of the University of Connecticut’s Spring Valley Student Farm.
Brian Filipowich, the founder and operator of Anacostia Aquaponics in Washington, DC and the Chairman and CEO of the national Aquaponics Association, is the main planner of the Hartford conference. Filipowich said that the focus on the Spring Valley Farm is only the beginning, and that the conference will feature a variety of panels, hands-on demonstrations, and other opportunities for attendees to learn from.
“The conference will run for three days and feature the top aquaponics experts from around the world, tours of commercial aquaponics operations, a vendor showroom, interactive discussions and social events for aquaponics growers of all stripes to collaborate,” Filipowich said.
The Friday conference events will start at UConn, touring the Spring Valley Student Farm, as well as the Bigelow Brook Farm, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The Husky-Ponics leg of the tour will look at how students are using aquaponics to supplement UConn dining halls, according to the Aquaponics Association event website. (https://aquaponicsassociation.org/the-husky-tour/).
Former UConn graduates Carl Underwood and Gabriel DeRosa originally started the idea of aquaponics on campus, according to UConn Today (https://today.uconn.edu/2018/05/growing-projects-aquaponics/). They received an Imagine/Develop/Engage/Apply (IDEA) Grant to start the Spring Valley farm, and Kelly Pfeiffer, who graduated this past May, completed the project.
“My goal was to have the aquaponics system up and running with fish by the time I graduated,” Pfeiffer said to UConn Today.
The success of UConn’s farm has put Spring Valley on the map – and is why the farm is on the conference schedule. Filipowich said the Association hopes to discuss the barriers to commercial aquaponic growth, and how the community can overcome them.
This weekend’s Hartford conference will address several goals and answer key questions for the Association beyond touring Connecticut farms, Filipowich said.
“[We want to know] how much can we grow in our own backyards, and how… aquaponics [is] helping to fight hunger and malnutrition.” Filipowich said.
Filipowich said he hopes the conference will also address research and food safety, investigating the latest research and discussing what message aquaponics is delivering to food safety regulators and policymakers.
The conference also will address aquaponics in STEM education, Filipowich said.
“How are educators across the country teaching STEM through aquaponics? And how can we get aquaponics in more STEM programs?” Filipowich said. “Aquaponics is the most sustainable form of agriculture. [It] can be a major component of economic growth.”
Natalie Baliker is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Natalie.Baliker@uconn.edu.