Aquaponics for Challenged People

I have had several discussions with advocates for the socially and physically disadvantaged about Aquaponic gardening. Battered women, traumatized soldiers, alcoholics and the autistic could all benefit from the joy of Aquaponic gardening in Pittsburgh. Here is a story from Akron, OH that illustrates the opportunity:

Aquaponics for Developmentally challengedSource: Houston Chronicle

The sight of a tankful of tilapia gobbling the food he’d given them made Scott Geistweite smile.

Every day, the Akron, Ohio, resident checks and feeds the fish in an aquaponics system at Bridges, a vocational center for adults with developmental disabilities. In the seven months he’s been helping to maintain the food-growing system, Geistweite’s verbal skills have skyrocketed, said Laura Gerlich, Bridges’ director.

It’s just one of the unintended benefits that have been reaped along with the beans and salad greens since Bridges started getting its clients involved in gardening.

Bridges is operated by Ardmore Inc., an agency that serves developmentally disabled people in Summit County, Ohio. The center provides recreation, continuing education and vocational training, and recently it has added gardens, an aquaponics system and chickens to the mix.

Ardmore bought the property last year with the intention of using its 10 acres for gardening. When it hired construction company F.G. Ayers Inc. to renovate the building’s interior, the project got an extra boost.

Ayers’ president and office manager, Lance and Cheryl Schmidt, are sustainability advocates.

The Schmidts suggested the aquaponics system, a setup that combines hydroponic gardening and raising fish in a mutually beneficial arrangement. Water from a fish tank in the Bridges lobby circulates through a growing bed atop an old brick planter, where plants grow under lights in a soilless medium. Fish waste in the water supplies nutrients that fertilize the plants, and in turn, the plants and the pebbles they grow in clean the water before it’s returned to the tank.

The system was installed in December and has been “very engaging” for the clients, who are often eager to show visitors what they’ve grown, Cheryl Schmidt said.

One of those whose attention it captured was Geistweite, who has autism. The sound of water trickling into the tank calms him, Gerlich explained, and the job of monitoring and feeding the fish has developed his sense of responsibility.

The aquaponics system is growing crops chosen by the Bridges participants – jalapeƱo peppers, chives, carrots, spinach and several types of lettuce. A salad they made from the first lettuce harvest was gone in minutes, Gerlich said.

 

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