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Grower Spotlight: Santa Fe Community College

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Grower Spotlight: Santa Fe Community College

If you have checked out our "Case Studies”, you most likely already know about Santa Fe Community College and their trailblazing work in aquaponics.  Being led by what some may refer to as a guru in the field, they have been successfully running, testing and growing with AquaGrove for just about one year. 

Leading the effort, Charlie Shultz has been a pioneer in the field of integrating fish and plants for more than 20 years. In the past year, Charlie and his team of staff, students and interns have been raising tilapia and growing various greens (Chinese cabbage, basil, kale) with AquaGrove, providing valuable data about their growth rates, best practices, guidelines for growers and the list goes on.  For this reason, Santa Fe Community College is in the AquaGrove “spotlight” this month, as much of their research and testing has and will continue to benefit current and future AquaGrove growers. 

Notes from the field…

In April of this year, Santa Fe Community College had already successfully harvested a variety of greens and reported that their AquaGrove system was healthy and in great condition.  They stated that they have been impressed with the progress they're making with the system; managing and keeping the system balanced is easy as they maintain daily logs of their ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels.  At the time, they were harvesting large leaf basil (Nufar) which is harvested on an average of every two weeks.

With AquaGrove being an indoor/outdoor system, Santa Fe Community College chose to move their system from the indoor classroom setting where it was positioned for several months to the outdoor greenhouse classroom, demonstrating just one of the advantages of having a system that can be deployed anywhere and reassembled as needed.  During the move, they held the water in a tank with aeration in order to ensure that the system would quickly acclimate. 

Just before the start of summer, Santa Fe Community College closed out its last crop which was a small version of Chinese cabbage.  In that time, they had run trials with varied use of the reflectors that come with the unit and learned that by using two (instead of three or four) reflectors, they could increase airflow and decrease the risk of tip-burns when working with certain leafy greens.

Now for the technical data…

As for feed rates, their team appears to have found the perfect balance.  Their fish have been thriving for months, and for the number of fish they are farming, they determined that they don't require any more feed input than 40g/day.  At this rate, they are experiencing fairly low TAN (Total Ammonia Nitrogen) and NO2 with slightly high NO3.  They confirmed that the feeding rate for the system could probably be set at 30g and the plants and fish will thrive.

They maintain a pH of 6.4 and consider that to be the “sweet spot” for the system to be balanced, and if it drops below 6.4, they add 10g of base; they avoid going too high by adding only a little every few days as needed to bump up the pH.  As per UVI recommendations, they have supplemented with Ca, K and Fe. Based on the total water volume of the system, they have determined that 17g of 10% Iron is required every three weeks.  Dosing at that rate, on schedule, their team has avoided any iron deficiencies. 

During the last weeks of this summer, the aquaponics team at Santa Fe Community College expects to run another round of basil since growing it in the AquaGrove has been so successful in previous crops; the basil that they are using enables them to do a “cut and come again” harvest, allowing them to get the most out of the plugs and using them for more than one crop. 

AquaGrove and its learning program continues to expand and improve with the feedback and research conducted by Partners in Education like Santa Fe Community College.  For more information on the CEA program at SFCC, please visit their website, and to learn more about how AquaGrove can enhance your school, group or other educational program, please contact us at: