R. Charlie Shultz has been a pioneer in the field of integrating fish and plants for more than 20 years. Trained initially at Virginia Tech as a fish farmer, Charlie began integrating plants in the system loop as a means to purify fish water while gaining a second valuable crop. Charlie spent the next 13 years conducting aquaponic research at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) in St. Croix where he worked with Dr. Jim Rakocy, who many consider the grandfather of aquaponic food production. During this time, Charlie also began teaching intensive short courses at UVI, serving an international audience. Soon thereafter, he attended graduate school at Kentucky State University focused on indoor aquaponic research where light technologies were compared in terms of energy use, crop yield and crop quality. This research led Charlie to serve as an Aquaponics Researcher in Alberta, Canada at Lethbridge College where he focused on overcoming the bottlenecks of this emerging industry on a commercial scale. After a short stint in Texas running a commercial aquaponics facility, Charlie now serves as Lead Faculty for the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) program at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) in New Mexico. Students learn to operate CEA facilities (greenhouses and indoor production) using soil-less production techniques such as Hydroponics and Aquaponics. SFCC will soon receive an AquaGrove integrated fish and plant system and will operate continuously to generate the latest data and run ongoing studies to test the production system indoors in a controlled environment. Students will gain valuable experience with this unique system while simultaneously providing rich data and validation of the robustness of the Aquagrove system. Charlie will be making himself available to discuss the system and give tours around the facility in Santa Fe. For more information on the CEA program at SFCC, please visit their website. AquaGrove is looking forward to sharing the progress and studies that will be conducted by Charlie and the students at Santa Fe Community College.
Brandon Russo is both a student and avid gardener who is innovative and always seeking new ways to grow organic foods. His passion was sparked by his mom; together they started his first garden, an 8’x8’ patch for growing pumpkins. Over the last ten years, Brandon has managed to expand from a small pumpkin patch to now running a garden that spans more than 60 feet. In addition to the variety of vegetables, plants and flowers he grows in his garden, for nearly four years Brandon has also been testing different ways to grow his favorite greens through alternative methods. From building a makeshift and handmade aquaponics unit to growing lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers through various hydroponics systems, Brandon has experienced his fair share of trial and error.
Michael Sidaway is a firefighter who has been looking for ways to provide his family with healthier and more sustainable organic foods. His interest in gardening started at the young age of four, having planted his first seed to grow watermelon. That first watermelon seed sprouted his desire to learn more and eventually develop a passion for growing his own fruits and vegetables. Over the years, Michael has attempted to grow just about every type of plant that has been of interest to him, which led him to develop his own home-based farm. As he grew his family, so did his desire to grow his own food as organically as possible.
Students at McArthur High School have a growing sustainable agriculture program and business. Their award-winning teacher, Vincent Newman, has put together a learn-as-you-go program that brings hands-on learning to a whole new level. As a winner of the prestigious DuPont Pioneer Excellence in Agricultural Science Education Award (NSTA) and P3 Eco-Challenge Award in 2017, Vincent Newman has proven to be an effective and powerful role model for McArthur High School students; in addition to leading his students, Mr. Newman is a role model for other educators and schools and was recently selected to take part in the 2017 National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy. Mr. Newman empowers students to lead and take charge of their greenhouse and grounds as if it were their own. Students have assembled and maintained the Aquagrove unit on their own, nurturing bream, tilapia and growing bib lettuce and cucumbers from starter seed pellets/discs. The students regularly monitor, track and manage water nitrate levels, as well as modify practices for optimal growth and quality of food.
Jason Popovic is an indoor environmental quality specialist who also has a passion for sustainable agriculture and aquaponics. He has been maintaining and developing gardens of his own for several years. Having previously experienced the challenges (soil born disease) of growing vegetables in compost and soil, Jason was looking for a better way to garden. For the past several years, he has been growing heirloom tomatoes and the like in bottom watering containers with soilless media. His herb garden is currently growing in a raised bed from leftover soilless media. He is integrating the Aquagrove system into his gardening to be more sustainable and increase production.
Having just opened in March 2017, the Carpenter House is a Marine Environmental Education Center unlike any other. A historic home that is a combination of beach paradise and marine science, the Carpenter House is operated by Nova Southeastern University and provides an easily accessible and open learning environment to the public. Its main resident is a teenager who can be found by the pool; her name is “Captain”, and she is a successfully rehabilitated green sea turtle who is regularly greeted by visitors and kept busy with enrichment activities throughout the day. Her primary diet will be supplemented by the latest addition to the science center, the Aquagrove. With the science center being focused on sustainability and education, the Aquagrove can be found on display by Captain’s home, growing leafy greens and harvesting tilapia.
Led by Joshua Ruddick, a certified Arizona Professional Educator in Earth Science, General Science and Biology, students at Santa Rita High School are paving the way for a sustainable future. As a Career and Tech Ed teacher with a specialization in sustainable agriculture and natural resource management, Mr. Ruddick will be using the Aquagrove system at the start of the 2017-18 school year. As part of his problem-based learning program and student-led agro-business (aka Santa Rita Sprouts), his classes will sell produce they’ve grown through Produce On Wheels Without Waste (POWWOW), a community-focused monthly pop-up farmer’s market that is responsible for distributing nearly 108k fresh produce boxes to families across Arizona.