Energy Conservation by Intermittently Recirculate and Aerate the Water in an Aquaponics System

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Bjorg Olafs checking the pH of the samples.

Bjorg Olafs checking the pH of the samples.

An indoor recirculating aquaponics system was designed to evaluate the effects of intermittent recirculation and aeration on crop yield.  Aquaponics combines commercial aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (soil-free agriculture), employing bacterial conversion of fish waste to plant nutrients.   Reducing the electric power requirements of aquaponics can improve profitability for a renewably powered greenhouse. An airlift was designed to simultaneously recirculate and aerate water, reducing power requirement by eliminating a water pump. Two independent but identical aquaponics systems were stocked with koi fish and sweet basil plants, and were studied for five weeks. One system used continuous aeration and recirculation, and the other used a 15-minute on/off interval. The system water pH and dissolved oxygen levels were maintained to promote both fish and plant growth. Plant growth was measured by weight increase in weekly intervals, with a control period and varying intermittency durations. This research will be completed in May 2014.

Research Performed by:

Bjorg Olafs next to the hydroponics experimental unit.

Bjorg Olafs next to the aquaponics experimental unit.

Bjorg M. Olafs, MSME Summer 2014

Research Advised by:

  • Dr. P. B. Merkle, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering

Other Thesis Committee Members Include:

  • Dr. Mark Fugler, Professor of Civil Engineering
  • Dr. Mark Compere, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering