Shawn’s WLDAAG / ELDAAG Poster

Shawn Kargus, who’s been working on adapting aquaponics as a low-cost way to solve food deserts, received a Student Scholars grant to support his presentation of this work at the 2012 West Lakes / East Lakes of the AAG Joint Meeting in DeKalb, Illinois.

Title: Aquaponics: A Sustainable, Low-Impact Agricultural Solution to Food Deserts and Urban Decay

Abstract: The word ‘aquaponics’ is the combination of aquaculture, the cultivation of aquatic organisms (fish or shellfish) for food, and hydroponics, the growing of plants in nutrient solutions with or without an inert medium (soil). Aquaponics systems are exceptionally efficient, producing more vegetables per square foot than other forms of agriculture, while the environmental impact is much lower. As a self-contained system, it requires no use of chemical fertilizers, eliminates the possibility of soil born pathogens and uses only 10% of the water consumed by conventional agriculture. Depending on the system’s size and design, it is possible to grow up to 10,000 fish and up to 43,000 pounds of vegetables per year. Growing food locally — where it is consumed — eliminates cost and environmental impact associated with transportation, providing affordable fresh food. Aquaponics systems are highly adaptable to geographic region. In warmer climates, growing can be accomplished outdoors, utilizing vacant land or abandoned parking lots. In colder climates, with the use of growing lights, vacant factories and warehouses can be converted to indoor growing facilities, or the use of greenhouses can limit the need for extra lighting. Repurposing older vacant and abandoned buildings can bring sustainable economic activity back to former industrial areas, while providing a local source of affordable fresh food that eliminates food deserts.

Here is the poster he presented:

(Larger version)

Shawn received lots of positive feedback from the other geographers in attendance. He’s been working toward a new angle on this research in the Fox Valley, and he’ll be presenting that at the 2013 AAG Annual Meeting.

Author: Andrew Shears

Andrew Shears is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. His research interests lie at an intersection of the human-environmental nexus, and includes branches of mapping, technological, memorialization and urban geographies. He lives in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania with his wife Amy, a professional photographer.