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Riverbend's Aquaponics Project Gets BOC Approval

The environmental center's director vouched for the effectiveness of aquaponics, in which plants and fish help each other thrive.

Lower Merion's Board of Commissioners on Wednesday night followed the township Plan Commission in voting to expedite the permitting process for Riverbend Environmental Education Center's planned aquaponics greenhouse.

The Gladwyne facility wants to establish a system wherein military veterans from Veteran Community Farms raise crops and fish together in a greenhouse that would also form the basis of new educational programs. For more about Riverbend's plans, read Patch's interview with director Laurie Bachman.

The greenhouse would sit at the back of the property. BOC President Liz Rogan, who proclaimed the project "amazing", said she hoped it would be visible from the Schuylkill Expressway: "It's free advertising!"

Commissioner George Manos of Bala Cynwyd was more skeptical, saying he feared endorsing "a money-bearing operation in a residential district" could set a problematic precedent. Rogan said the crops raised at Riverbend would only be sold off-site, at farmers markets and other similar locations.

Commissioner Scott Zelov asked Bachman, "How do you know this will work?" The director told the board there have been plenty of successes in the field, including a 10,000-square-foot basil repository at Cheyney University in West Chester.

"It's been a grassroots movement ... around close to 20 years," Bachman said.

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