One of this summer’s most eye-catching additions to Talley Student Union is a student-designed system of bins, pipes, fish and lettuce that showcase one of the state’s fastest-growing agriculture practices.

In mid-June on the building’s main floor between Talley Marketplace and the food court, NC State Student CentersNC State Dining and the student-run Recirculating Farms Club unveiled an 800-gallon aquaponics system featuring a tank of up to 15 fish as well as two shallow planting containers that will grow tomatoes and salad greens in water and without soil.

“We want students to see this display and say, ‘This is cool,’” said Paul Begue, an NC State alum who helped launch the idea for the display when he was a graduate student. “We want them to think more about [this technology] and get involved. I would love more people to get into this.”

Aquaponics is a closed-loop food production method in which fish and plants are grown together. Water is recirculated between fish tanks and soil-less plant beds that hydroponically grow crops.  The wastewater from the fish is routed to the plant beds, where the crops absorb nutrients while also filtering the water for recirculation back to the fish tanks. Depending on the system design, the process can be zero-waste and requires minimal daily maintenance.

In addition to being student-built, the display will be student-maintained by the club’s members and other students interested in monitoring pH levels, temperature and water quality.

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