Paul Nickerson

Press Release from Build at American University of Armenia! A fantastic educational build.

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Wonderful build in Yerevan Armenia

The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment in close cooperation with the Lehigh University’s Sustainable Development Program (SDEV) in Pennsylvania and SDEV’s expert partners (see list of team members below) is building a demonstration aquaponics unit at the American University of Armenia. The construction started on June 19, 2014 and the system is expected to be up and running in 2 days. The project aims to demonstrate that it is possible to produce high quality organic produce while using very little water and other agricultural inputs.

Aquaponics is a method of combined fish and vegetable farming that requires no soil. Using the system it’s possible to cultivate freshwater fish and plants in a recirculating, closed-loop water system. Wastewater from the fish serves as organic fertilizer for the plants, while the plants clean the water of fish wastewater. The cleaned water then is sent back to the fish container eliminating the need to use new sources of water.

The net result is a 90% reduction in freshwater use compared with conventional fish farming, and significant reduction in artificially added nutrients. The system can run without pesticides and, because the fish environment is spacious and clean, without antibiotics.

Aquaponics is a relatively new field globally, with only fifteen to twenty years of history. It is fast becoming an attractive approach worldwide to producing high-quality food with minimal quantity of inputs like water. In addition it requires very small amounts of land (though no soil) and no artificial fertilizers or pesticides.

Armenia can benefit from such a technology argues Alen Amirkhanian, director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment. “Aquaponics is a vivid demonstration of how, with minimal input, we are able to produce significant economic value and substantially increased agricultural productivity,” says Amirkhanian. He argues that Armenia needs to rapidly adopt and develop new approaches where water use is minimized.

In addition to the demonstration unit to be built at AUA, the AUA Acopian Center will also be collecting data and monitoring the performance of the many aquaponics units that the SDEV’s partners expect to install over time. “Aquaponics systems are very flexible with respect to their design and construction. They can be very simple and small in scale, like the one at AUA. They can also be scaled up to large-scaled production, such as industrial fisheries,” says Paul Nickerson, design partner of FishyPlant, one of the SDEV partners.

Ben Walmer, SDEV expert, who is also participating in the design and installation of the AUA unit, adds that a key aim for him and his partners is “To establish a diverse portfolio of aquaponics systems, involving private businesses, academic institutions, and development NGOs, which together will demonstrate the impact that such innovation can have in fostering local economic development.” He concludes that aquaponics systems add diversity to food production and they do this by significantly improving resource efficiency.

Project Team:

Alen Amirkhanian, director, AUA Acopian Center for the Environment []
Karen Aghababyan, chief scientist, AUA Acopian Center for the Environment []
Arthur Sargsyan, research associate, AUA Acopian Center for the Environment

Mark Orrs, director, Sustainable Development Program, Lehigh University (SDEV)

Ben Walmer, co-president, AggrEco International, a US based company (SDEV partner) []
Kirk Wallace, project developer and education specialist, AggrEco International, a US based company (SDEV partner) []
Matthew Stromgren, data specialist, AggrEco International, a US based company (SDEV partner)

Paul Nickerson, design partner, FishyPlant (SDEV partner)

Kevin Gurtowski, Community and Youth Development Specialist, US Peace Corps., project designer builder (SDEV partner)


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