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Gladwyne Plan: Vets, Crops & Fish

Riverbend Environmental Education Center wants to dabble in aquaponics.

Riverbend Environmental Education Center in Gladwyne is proposing to build a greenhouse in which military veterans would raise crops and fish using the practice of aquaponics.

Executive director Laurie Bachman told Patch that Riverbend would collaborate with Veteran Community Farms to find and train employees in aquaponics, in which aquatic animals and plants grown in water live in symbiosis.

Mature fish (probably tilapia) and plants (Bachman envisions a variety) would be sold to markets, the proceeds helping to fund Riverbend educational programs, which would at that point expand to include teaching children about the aquaponics greenhouse itself.

The project is in the early stages, Bachman said. Engineering plans are being tweaked. Beyond construction of the greenhouse itself—projected at 30 feet wide, 150 feet long and 16 feet tall—trails to the site would need to be improved, and electricity would need to be extended there. (Not water service, though; water for the tanks would come from rain barrels, Bachman said.)

Most material is the money left to be gotten. Riverbend is using a $300,000 state grant toward the project, but Bachman expects to need to raise another $300,000.

The goal is to seek Lower Merion Township approvals in December and start construction as early as September 2013. Bachman and VCF's Brian Hillestad received applause for their plans at the Gladwyne Civic Association meeting Tuesday night.

"It's great to have nonprofits work together in a collaborative relationship for something like this," Bachman said.

What do you think of this plan? Tell us in the comments section below.

Liz Rosenbaum October 25, 2012 at 12:43 PM
i hope they can use solar for this project, too. One does have to wonder about the waste produced from fish farming (gardening?) I hope they'll collaborate with scientists from organizations such as Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Schuylkill Action Network. After all, the Schuylkill is the largest tributary to the Delaware River. Looking forward to hearing more about this! thanks
Laurie Bachman October 25, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Liz - Thank you for your comments. We have not finalized the energy needs at this time but they will be relatively low. Solar will certainly be a consideration as the final plans are determined. The fish waste is used as the nutrition for the grown agriculture. It is not discharged as it is in traditional fish farming. Any discharge would be very minimal and be controlled at a rate well below what the grass in the area could use as a natural fertilizer. Laurie Bachman
JEFFREY October 25, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Most gardening waste, from the product itself, is usually good for the environment and is a real plus to aid this program. I don't know, personally, how the waste from the fish will be handled.
JEFFREY October 25, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Laurie, I would like to talk to you about this project in more detail with you. Do you have a place where we could meet. I may have some helpful ideas. Best to reach me at "cprtrainingco@comcast.net". I'm looking foreward to meeting with you and maybe some of your team. --Jeffrey Dorfman

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