University of Southern Indiana

Rainwater is a potential rainmaker

When Scott Anderson, instructor in computer science, isn’t riding four wheelers with his wife or spending time with his grandkids, he’s likely working on his aquaponics system in downtown Evansville.

Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but no soil). It’s a natural ecosystem in which fish and plants thrive together. Fish produce waste, an organic food source for plants that in turn filter the water for the fish.

Anderson’s system uses trapped rainwater, but no pesticides or fertilizers. This prevents contamination by e coli and salmonella—pathogens found in the excrement of warm-blooded animals that can get into food through additives in the growing process.

Scott Anderson's aquaponics system

Lettuce varieties in Scott Anderson’s aquaponics garden: Green and Red Butter, Green and Red Oakleaf, Green and Red Sweet Crisp, and Romaine. The eco-friendly system minimizes the introduction of outside materials and maintains balance through the addition of rainwater and fish food only. Photo courtesty Scott Anderson.

A win for fish, plants and people.

Aquaponics pulls out the good and eliminates the drawbacks of aquaculture and hydroponics to create a more effective means for sustaining life. Although Anderson has been working on his system for just over a year, he became interested in aquaponics in 2000.

“I have been involved in local food production since I owned and ran the Evansville Municipal Market 20 years ago,” he says. “I wanted to get back into the process as an urban farmer and farmer’s market participant.”

Currently, Anderson’s garden accommodates 120 tilapia and about 600 heads of lettuce—using approximately 8,000 gallons of water. A gallon of water weighs a little over eight pounds, which adds up to about 33 tons. Fortunately, he is not only a teacher but a real estate developer whose holdings include a parking garage in downtown Evansville. It was a logical choice for housing the system because, he says, “It was built to withstand the weight of all the water that I’m using.”

You can find his produce on the menu at Arazu in Newburgh and Evansville. If we’re lucky, we may find his products (APE Aquaponics) at the Evansville Farmer’s Market this summer.

“I sell my products as live plants, with the roots on,” he says. “A head of lettuce in the refrigerator is still fresh after three weeks.”

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