Growing Community with Aquaponics
Our innovative Community Supported Agriculture program will provide horticultural therapy, employment, and community integration for adults with autism and intellectual disabilities.
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a highly efficient method of indoor farming with the unique ability to grow both fish and vegetables in tandem. Fish grow in tanks in a closed-loop ecosystem. The waste produced by the fish fertilizes the plants, which in turn cleanse the water for the fish.
Unlike conventional agriculture, aquaponics uses 90% less water to sustainably grow 5 to 20 times more food per acre, without the use of pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. It reduces time to harvest by one-third, and produces a steady supply of fresh, nutritious fish and produce year-round.
Adults with autism often have difficulty finding, keeping, and achieving success on the job. Impairments in social skills and organizational abilities leave many of these adults without employment, or working at jobs they cannot sustain. Our aquaponics program will provide these adults with an employment opportunity that fits.
ACRES will employ adults with autism in all facets of its aquaponics program, from care and maintenance to harvest and sales/donations. We believe that aquaponics is a great match for the unique skills and interests of these individuals because the precision, accuracy, and rational skills required to operate the systems match the job-related strengths of many adults with autism -- several have already expressed interest in the project. The scheduled procedures and daily routines that aquaponics requires will provide these adults with the stability and structure that they find reassuring, while volunteers from Penn State and the community will enjoy learning and working with them through the horticultural therapy that aquaponics provides.
Where will the crops go?
Several local businesses and restaurants have already agreed to purchase produce from ACRES Aquaponics once the program is established. Produce will also be sold directly to the community via farmer's markets and direct sales, fostering community relationships between local residents and those working at the aquaponics center. Our produce can also be shared with local food banks, schools, and senior centers to ensure fresh, healthful food for everyone. Revenue from sales will support the aquaponics project and those who benefit from it.