Ourfoods has teamed up with the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies on Catalina Island, a place where a gallon of fresh water costs more than a gallon of oil, to build an aquaponic research greenhouse (see photo above).
Director of Undergraduate Programs for the Wrigley Institute, Diane Kim, Ph.D., notes that they use the system to teach "critical concepts in biology, chemistry and ecosystem dynamics... and to get them to think critically about the inputs and outputs of food production", at a time where California's drought is taking a heavy toll on the viability of both commercial and small scale food producers- making aquaponics a hyper-relevant tool to engage students on sustainable food production.
In addition to pioneering an aquaponics curriculum taught at USC's main campus, the executive director of Ourfoods, David Rosenstein, led an interdisciplinary workshop with 27 students on Catalina- each coming with various educational backgrounds, and naturally, a different perspective to bring to the table.
In two blog posts by participants, students noted a clear appreciation for an opportunity to break the theoretical, classroom-based learning paradigm and get their hands dirty, one student Jacqueline Hernandez noting "My biggest realization was one that humans depended on for tens of thousands of years: I am physically and mentally capable of constructing structures for a common good. The academic life is one I enjoy very much... but being highly sedentary, it isn’t conducive to making full use of our evolutionary adaptations. There’s empowerment in building big things yourself, and there’s a shared enthusiasm when building with peers." before mentioning that this experience inspired her to build her own aquaponic system on her rooftop, perhaps inspiring the next generation of farmers, policy makers, scientists, economists, or simply citizens who choose to participate in a more sustainable food system.
Read more about the student experience here: