DelVal partners with aquaponics company

Sep 27, 2016

Symbiotic Aquaponic, an Oklahoma-based company, is partnering with Delaware Valley University by providing an aquaponics set up.  

Aquaponics combines the culture of fish and growing of plants in a re-circulating aquatic system that requires no soil.  The major input for these systems is fish food.  In this type of set up, the fish waste provides the nutrients that are important for plant growth.

"Symbiotic Aquaponic wanted to know the challenges a typical consumer might face when building one of their systems," said Dr. Chris Tipping, interim dean of agriculture and environmental sciences. "They Skyped with us, and watched us assemble it.”

Dr. Tipping worked with Cliff David, a member of the President’s Advisory Council at DelVal who is president of Conservation Economics, to assemble the unit. David connects people to conservation and agriculture opportunities in ways that generate revenue in an environmentally beneficial and sustainable way. He helped connect DelVal with Symbiotic Aquaponic.

“Neither of us had ever done something like this so we were good test subjects," said Dr. Tipping. "Chris Filling (DelVal's hydroponics greenhouse manager) was also present to assist with his wealth of expertise and experience.”

The company is receiving valuable feedback from DelVal on the assembly and utility of their system. At the same time, the University is getting to add a new aquaponics system to the greenhouse at no cost. The set up will provide expanded opportunities for individual student research projects and will also be used as a teaching tool in classes.

Dr. Tipping received the system in the mail in June.

"It's taken many weeks to get where we are now with the system," said Dr. Tipping.

Dr. Tipping said that starting a system like this is similar to an initial aquarium set up.  A new fish tank needs time to become conditioned with important bacteria that are beneficial to the fish. Presently, the University has goldfish in the aquaponics tank to achieve that conditioning.

"We also have our own aquaponics system, which we built from scratch that is not like anyone else's," said Dr. Tipping. "It has been in operation for over a year. It produces tilapia and a variety of greens such as basil, arugula, and various lettuces.  We've had a staff member take home and prepare one of the fish and he said it was very good."

Dr. Tipping would like to explore the use of hybrid striped bass in the set up.

"A lot of people are using tilapia these days, so, we'd like to do something different," said Dr. Tipping.

Symbiotic Aquaponic is happy to be providing educational opportunities for DelVal's students through the partnership. The company is dedicated to building healthier communities through smart and sustainable use of aquaponics. It wants to empower individual families, producers and communities to use the technology for their benefit and the greater good of society.


Dr. Chris Tipping with the new aquaponics set up.

Credit: Delaware Valley University. Dr. Chris Tipping, interim dean of agriculture and environmental sciences, with the aquaponics system.

"We would like the opportunity to thank the great staff, faculty, and board at Delaware Valley University," said Symbiotic Aquaponic President and CEO Kaben Smallwood. "Our systems are running at many educational facilities around the country, but the partnership with DelVal is one of our most valued. As a university, the research and studies performed at DelVal will help provide verifiable information that can be used to help positively affect the course of the now fledgling, but rapidly developing aquaponics industry. We look forward to a fruitful partnership for many years to come"

Watch the video below to see the new system working: