Guam Green Growth is offering aquaponics pilot training lessons to residents who want to learn more about growing their own food and possibly building a business.

Aquaponics is a food production system in which water rich with nutrients from fish is shared with plants that use the nutrients and also purify the water. As a fusion of aquaculture and hydroponics, its system demonstrates the prospect of environmental sustenance and preservation, said David Crisostomo, aquaculture specialist with the University of Guam Sea Grant.

Many community based nonprofit groups and mayors' offices have expressed interest in the program, he said, and Crisostomo encourages their active involvement. As the principal director and lead of the program's development and teachings, Crisostomo anticipates expanding the project to interested individuals.

"Aquaponics and recirculating aquaculture systems play an important role in teaching ways to be good stewards of our environment," Crisostomo explained, when asked of the role of aquacultures in the island's ecosystem.

"Food production can be damaging to the environment if done improperly. The concept behind aquaponics and recirculating aquaculture systems is to approach 'zero waste.' This is the goal."

Maintaining an aquaponics setup includes feeding the fish, replenishing water levels and removing accumulated sludge, all of which are daily tasks.

Individuals who decide to build an aquaponics system at home can experiment to see what works best for them. This includes exploring the feeding rates of fish and testing and monitoring the water quality.

Nurturing cooperation, creativity

The G3 program and UOG Sea Grant offer interested members and groups of the community the necessary technology and hands-on training, entirely free of charge. Participants are also given a free aquaculture system and their first stock of fish – with a network of communication for direct access to information on sustainable food production.

Crisostomo expects UOG's backyard aquaculture system to evolve into networking opportunities for participants - exchanging lessons from each other's experiences. Students and youth-related agencies can determine if these areas appeal to their interests and career aspirations.

"I'm hopeful that the small systems will generate interest and creativity with individuals, to be able to move to a more commercial level," Crisostomo said. "At the same time, families can continue to operate small systems as teaching tools for their kids and the community around them. Schools can get involved with these systems as well to have a real-world application for STEM activities."

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