Door Campaign Aims to Teach Aquaponics on North Side

Pittsburgh Aquaponics has been approached to assist this project and will do so where it can. Having a location and some old greenhouse equipment is a great start.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Door Campaign is weeks old and already has a board of directors, two sites for an innovative leadoff project and associations with high school and college mentors.

“The idea is to get young African-American men to show the community that we can be the change,” he said. “We’re trying to expose our demographic to a different world. The door in the Door Campaign is the one that opened to me.”

A recent alumnus of CORO’s Next Leaders program on the North Side, Mr. Swatson came up with the idea of an aquaponics studio — a climate-controlled chamber in which fish and vegetables grow together in a symbiotic nutrient cycle. There are a variety of set-ups that include an aquarium for the fish with the produce in a tier above.

The basic concept is that the fish provide the fertilizer for the plants to grow. The environment has to be controlled so that sunlight, water temperature, nitrogen, oxygen and ammonia levels are kept in balance.

The details of the plan are still being worked out, but the fish and the plants they fertilize would be used for consumption. The fish, possibly perch or tilapia, would be housed in large freshwater tanks.

Mr. Swatson found a supportive ally in Renita Freeman, director of the Urban League’s Family Support Center in Northview Heights, where the studio will be located in a 19-by-15-foot former greenhouse.

A demonstration model also is being planned for a site in Manchester, where more people can see “and wrap their heads around plants growing with fish,” said Mr. Swatson, a student at the Community College of Allegheny County.

One benefit of aquaponics is that it solves the problem of contaminated urban soil that traditional gardens have to overcome. Another is that you get fish.

“The Door Campaign will raise food to give to the community, and we have established some collaborations with North Side restaurants to purchase the fish,” Mr. Swatson said.

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