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Feasibility of an Energy Efficient Large-Scale Aquaponic Food Production and Distribution Facility

[+] Author Affiliations
Joseph P. Dygert, Melissa L. Morris, Erik M. Messick, Patrick H. Browning

West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

Paper No. ES2014-6567, pp. V002T11A006; 13 pages
  • ASME 2014 8th International Conference on Energy Sustainability collocated with the ASME 2014 12th International Conference on Fuel Cell Science, Engineering and Technology
  • Volume 2: Economic, Environmental, and Policy Aspects of Alternate Energy; Fuels and Infrastructure, Biofuels and Energy Storage; High Performance Buildings; Solar Buildings, Including Solar Climate Control/Heating/Cooling; Sustainable Cities and Communities, Including Transportation; Thermofluid Analysis of Energy Systems, Including Exergy and Thermoeconomics
  • Boston, Massachusetts, USA, June 30–July 2, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Advanced Energy Systems Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4587-5
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


Today the United States is plagued by societal issues, economic insecurity, and increasing health problems. Societal issues include lack of community inclusion, pollution, and access to healthy foods. The high unemployment coupled with the rising cost of crude oil derivatives, and the growing general gap between cost of living and minimum wage levels contribute to a crippled consumer-driven US economy. Health concerns include increasing levels of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. These epidemics lead to staggering economic burdens costing Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

It is well-known that many of the health issues impacting Americans can be directly linked to the production, availability, and quality of the food. Factors contributing to the availability of food include reduction of United States farmland, an increase in food imported from overseas, and the cost of goods to the consumer. The quality of food is influenced by the method of growth as well as imposed preservation techniques to support food transportation and distribution. At the same time, it has become increasingly common to implement biotechnology in genetically modified crops for direct human food or indirectly as a livestock feed for animals consumed by humans. Crops are also routinely dosed with pesticides and hormones in an attempt to increase productivity and revenue, with little consideration or understanding of the long term health effects.

Research shows that community gardens positively impact local employment, community involvement and inclusivity, and the diets of not only those involved in food production, but all members of their households. The purpose of this work is to determine the feasibility of an energy efficient large-scale aquaponic food production and distribution facility which could directly mitigate growing socioeconomic concerns in the US through applied best practices in sustainability. Aquaponics is a symbiotic relationship between aquaculture and hydroponics, where fish and plants grow harmoniously. The energy efficient facility would be located in an urban area, and employ solar panels, natural lighting, rain water reclamation, and a floor plan optimized for maximum food yield and energy efficiency. Examples of potential crops include multiple species of berries, corn, leafy vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and carrots. Potential livestock include responsibly farmed tilapia, shrimp, crayfish, and oysters.

The large scale aquaponic facility shows a lengthy period for financial return on investment whether traditional style construction of the building or a green construction style is used. However many forms of federal government aid and outside assistance exist for green construction to help drive down the risk in the higher initial investment which in the long run could end up being more profitable than going with a traditionally constructed building. Outside of financial return there are many proven, positive impacts that a large-scale aquaponic facility would have. Among these are greater social involvement and inclusivity, job creation, increased availability of fresh food, and strengthening of America’s agriculture infrastructure leading to increased American independence.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME
Topics: Food products



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