Aquaponics: Addressing Food Scarcity

By Erika Browning and Cherish Duerst, March 3rd, 2020
Photo Credit: Erika Browning
At the International Linguistics Center’s campus, the greenhouse is on display. Near the dining hall, this large half-dome of semi-opaque material is the hallmark of a protective home for plants.  Unlike the empty, dry greenhouse in my backyard that I’ve never had the time or inclination to put to use, this hoop house is full of warm, humid air and hundreds of plants of all sizes.  And fish.

This facility employs Aquaponics, a system that combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment.  The waste produced by farmed fish provides nutrients for plants, which in turn purify the water in a hydroponic system.  The result is a greenhouse that uses just 5% of the water required by traditional growing methods.  Imagine what this could mean for meeting nutritional needs through farming in communities where water is scarce, or during times of drought.  In fact, one of the main objectives of the center is to explore how aquaponics and agriculture can be used in Dallas County for community development.

ILC Aquaponics is the formal name of this endeavor, with three main goals:
1. To provide agriculture and community development training for individuals preparing for life and work in developing countries
2. As an educational resource for schools and families, offering school tours, science clubs and nature walks
3. To initiate and support community development efforts, actively engaging the public in solutions for overcoming food scarcity 
It is this last ambition that most excites Cherish Duerst, the aquaponics Program Director. Many residents of southern Dallas county live in a food desert, making our area fertile ground for urban farming initiatives. This situation is near to Cherish’s heart, given her personal experiences with hunger. The ILC campus’s proximity to Duncanville makes it a convenient location for students and others to learn more about farming, aquaponics and science. As our community faces the challenges of food scarcity and food deserts, Cherish and her team at ILC Aquaponics would like to support the effort by fostering synergy, education, and resources to encourage development work in our region. 

ILC Aquaponics is considering several related events in the next few months, including possibly a volunteer fair for local organizations to build support, a farmer’s market, or a development planning meeting with local representatives. The most current information will be posted to their Facebook page, ILCaquaponics

If you are interested in joining the discussion, or discussing your current efforts to address hunger in our area, please reach out to Cherish at [email protected]