Vacant Land Ripe for Aquaponics

Aquaponics on vacant city lots
Photo credit: Brian Cohen

If you attended the Farm to Table Conference last weekend, thank you for visiting with us. We enjoyed meeting and talking with everyone. Pittsburgh needs more Aquaponic gardeners to make the city more resilient.

If you didn’t have a chance to pick up a copy of the DIY Aquarium Aquaponics manual, it is now available for sale here.

The article below stems from my work to bring Aquaponics to food deserts in communities like Garfield, Larimer and Hazelwood. There are plenty of vacant lots and the opportunity to grow local organic veggies would be huge.

Source: Pop City Media

Combining hydroponics (growing in water) with aquaculture (growing fish to eat), aquaponics places linked fish- and plant-growing apparatus beneath 22-foot geodesic “biodomes” in vacant lots so that local food production can continue all year round. By providing fresh food to neighbors and selling it to restaurants, Mark Berger hopes the biodomes will be self-sustaining and provide education for local adults and kids in sustainability.

“How do we have more sustainability so we do not take resources from future generations?” Berger asks, pointing to statistics that, here in America, which imports its food from around the world, 10 calories is expended getting food here for every calorie consumed. “That clearly is not sustainable,” he says. With aquaponics’ recirculation using a small electric pump and a gravity-powered siphon drain, it uses 98 percent less water, 90 percent less energy and 75 percent less labor than other forms of agriculture. The biodome, as Berger envisions it, would gain 30 degrees of heat compared to winter’s temperatures simply from passive thermal radiation inside the structure, and place its fish tank underground to take advantage of natural ground temperatures for water that needs to be 65 degrees.

With no vacant-lot soil being used, growers don’t have to worry about eliminating toxins buried in the lot from building materials and previous industrial uses. Biodomes would improve lots by bringing in electricity, but are temporary — they need no foundation — so they can be moved if needed. One person would be employed to stop by once a day to tend each dome.

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2 thoughts on “Vacant Land Ripe for Aquaponics

  1. I would like to get involved in the production of these domes & aquaponic gardens for the city as well as for myself. Could you please provide additional information in moving forward with this project. Thank you

  2. Hi Miles,
    Thanks for your interest! I would suggest joining our email list ( and getting involved with your local neighborhood to start organizing this idea and getting support, identifying land, identifying possible partners, etc. The Kingsley Association in Larimer is a good place to start in the East End. Their consensus group meetings are open to the public and meet regularly (

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