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.