An Education in Aquaponics?

Introduction

In August 2018, János Bódi contacted us via our facebook page with the following question:

“Is there any agriculture college or university (With Bsc level) exists in Europe where aquaponics is part of the education and officially accredited?”

We really liked Janos question and decided to ask around our networks to find out what is currently available and to think about the opportunity space. So we got back to Janos and asked – what is it you are looking for – from a course?

János Bódi Alice-Marie Archer thank You for your work with the article, I have just reviewed it. I think aquaponics course should be accepted as a “specialization” within agriculture courses on the Bsc level (such as agriculture engineering). I mean it should be an accredited specialization such as if somebody want to learn farm management for cattles, pigs, poultry, etc. He/She can do it separately, based on the opportunities what the current university can offer for sure. The aquaponics course based on my experience and opinion should include the basics where the students should learn how to assemble different type of AP systems (I mean how to build a floating raft one, and how to build one, which uses the whole growbed with different type of medias) (how to build a bellsiphon), including how to plan the system for disabled people too, for the reason because I believe with aquaponics technology more job opportunities and something new can be achieved for disabled people. During the education I would learn how to manage a small (homestead) size farm and a bigger (commercial) one, furthermore how to use the technology for social, charity, etc purposes for the purpose the world could be a better place. In my country, Hungary, University of Kaposvár used to have aquaponics System, but I don’t know that it is still actual, but there aren’t any news about it for years.

The next step was to ask around our network – who is doing what these days? We got lots of responses – and decided that as well as sharing these with Janos, we could gather them here to share with you!

What is currently available via academic institutions

It’s usually taken for granted that you can study towards the career you intend for yourself, however the speed at which precision agriculture is evolving has made it hard for academic institutions to be responsive. We found that bespoke aquaponics courses don’t appear to exist within academic institutions, however we did discover many courses have a unit dedicated to aquaponics.

The HAS university in Den Bosch uses aquaponics as part of their Applied Biology bachelor programme. The faculty of Gembloux agro-bio tech (Liege University) in neighbouring Belgium appears to integrate elements of aquaponics into their undergraduate curriculum, and has some aquaponics facilities. There is a set of aquaculture courses (6 ECTS in total) at Odisee University College, Belgium that includes aquaponics. In Greece the University of Thessaly has an undergraduate unit in the School of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ichthyology and Aquatic Environment. Ankara University in Turkey also offers an undergraduate unit as part of their Freshwater Fish Course. For diploma level learners Zahradnicka Skola Kopidino in the Czech republic has an aquaponics curriculum.

Getting to Masters level – the MSc in Aquaculture offered by Ghent University enables students to begin to explore aquaponics. The University of Rostock MSc includes an aquaponics unit across 2 days and has an impressive facility – the Fish Glass House. Ankara University also offers credits at postgraduate level. We’ve encountered a number of Masters level students writing their thesis research on aquaponics – so it seems that once you are looking at postgraduate courses, you can find an angle to explore your interest in aquaponics further – however the available skills and resources within your host university will vary depending on the institution’s interest in aquaponics.

In the past – for those interested in learning more about aquaponics, there was an opportunity – the European Aquaponics Hub – a European Union funded programme enabled (mainly students) to take specific training units in aquaponics – however the programme funding ran out in June this year. The hub is currently considering setting up an erasmus system for young people to be able to continue to develop their skills in aquaponics.

While we wait for the emergence of this erasmus programme- all is not lost – many excellent training programmes exits for those willing to venture outside of academia.

Practitioner Led Training

There is a great variety in the depth of education that you can access from practitioner-led courses – and insight into systems that you won’t get in a research centric setting. From ½ day taster sessions to several week long commercial syllabus – maybe there is something happening near you:

In Spainhttp://acuaponiasinfronteras.org/ is teaching courses and hosting events at Aula del Mar in Malaga.

In France https://www.lautrecampagne.com/  has run short courses in aquaponics as well as http://www.aquaponiefrance.com/formations-ateliers running regular courses and private courses as needed.

In Italy http://acquacolturaitalia.com/en/chi-siamo/ is offering professional aquaponics courses with accreditation! You may also find courses with https://www.irciponic.com/corsi/.

In Sweden https://growgbg.com/sv/happening/aquaponics-at-folkuniversitetet/ are teaching aquaponics in Gothemburg.

In the Czech Republic the Aquaponics Farm Association is running courses

In Austria you can find some courses here https://www.teichwirteverband-noe.at/veranstaltungen+2500++1789990

In Germany Let’s Grow offer workshops in aquaponics https://www.lets-grow.de/blog/termin-workshop/

In Portugal you’ll find courses at http://ecoaldeiajanas.org/evento/curso-de-aquaponia/

In the Netherlands https://www.deduurzamekaart.nl/aquaponics-workshop-bij-riverfood/

and https://www.mediamatic.net/nl/page/64982/aquaponics-workshop

In the UK you’ll find courses from www.bristolfish.org, the highly reputed http://bioaquafarm.co.uk/learn/, as well as tasters from organisations like http://greenlab.org/.

Bristol Fish Project in 2018 offered 2 people year-long Apprenticeships on their farm to develop new practitioners. This apprenticeships are paid at the living wage by the farm, and a 20% leadership training element is paid by the UK government.

What is available online

Finally there are plenty of places you can learn about aquaponics online:

Silvia Bernstein’s hobbyist / gardener course has had around 5000 students and gets 4 stars! https://www.udemy.com/user/sylviabernstein/

Murray Hallam’s commercialisation centric Aquaponics Design Course is accepting registrations from 07/10/2018 https://www.aquaponicsdesigncourse.com/

ACS distance education (Australia) offers a thorough introduction to aquaponics https://www.acs.edu.au/courses/aquaponic-production-607.aspx

For French speakers there are a range of online courses available from http://www.debuterlaquaponie.com/cours-en-ligne

Breaking this down

There remains a gap in the education space for professionalisation in aquaponics and other precision farming disciplines.

At the time of writing

  • you can do a wider BSc, then professionalise during your masters
  • you can self train / interact with practitioner led training
  • you can seek an apprenticeship /  look out for the new erasmus programme

It might be worth doing this in a stepwise manner – trying an introductory course online, visiting a practitioner for inspiration or to take your learning deeper. Then registering for an academic programme / or enrolling for a practitioner led commercial training that works for you.

We have an ongoing survey to enable us to map out the need for aquaponics courses in Europe and beyond, to matchmake existing courses with learners, and to establish opportunities for education programmes in aquaponics ‘deserts’. If you are interested in learning aquaponics or are currently teaching – you can help us develop the sector by filling it out – thankyou! https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MQZL8YF