Aquaponics is a sustainable farming method that merges aquaculture and hydroponics. Through an aquaponics recirculating system, plants absorb nutrients provided by fish waste and return clean water to the fish.

Vegetables, especially leafy greens, thrive in this pesticide-free system, growing up to 25% faster than in soil because nutrients in the water are constantly available to roots.

Since this method uses only one-tenth of the water of conventional farming, it’s ideal in urban areas with low water security, like San Diego.

Franco on Fifth's aquaponic system.

Ecolife Conservation’s Innovation Center is a demonstration site in Escondido that last year grew over 2,000 pounds of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, which was all distributed to Meals on Wheels, Produce for Patriots, and Interfaith Community Services.

The nonprofit unveiled its newest urban system at Franco on Fifth in Bankers Hill in September 2019. This system yields up to 108 heads of lettuce every 33 days. Chef Flor Franco donates the produce to family nutrition programs such as Olivewood Gardens’ Cooking for Salud, and she also hosts healthy cooking demonstrations and aquaponics workshops.

Ecolife’s educational program teaches youth about their role in the ecosystem and how to grow sustainable, healthy foods. The program develops an engaging curriculum and donates hundreds of 20-gallon growing systems to local classrooms countywide. The organization also recently partnered with Escondido’s COMPACT program, installing an aquaponics system at the facility to use as a living laboratory that benefits at-risk youth from the juvenile justice system and provides educational and job training.

You too can test the growing power of aquaponics with an ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kit, or find more information about Ecolife’s community programs and resources on their website.

No items found.
About the Contributor
No items found.