UH Aquaponics System could revolutionize food safety

Since the aquaponics garden is a completely closed system, the produce aren't exposed to the contaminants that can make consumers sick

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Lettuce, peanut butter and cantaloupes. It seems more and more these days, simple food favorites we all serve in our homes are making millions of people sick around the country.

As the federal government works to tighten oversight, food safety experts right here in Houston say an innovative farming system could wipe out the chance of contamination.

So, could this be the future of farming?

"This is really cutting edge," Jay Neal, a University of Houston assistant professor of food safety, told Local 2.

It's called Aquaponics. It's a revolutionary farming system that's been around for decades in Asia. But with the growing concerns over food safety, it's increasingly becoming more appealing in the United States.

"By 2050, we're going to need to double our food production. We're running out of places to farm, so we have to come up with alternative methods," Neal explained.

Neal created an Aquaponics garden on campus to teach students about alternative careers in agriculture.

It starts with a 600 gallon tank filled with 200 tilapia.

"Their job is to eat swim and produce waste because the fish waste is what produces the nutrients for the plants," said Neal.

The fish waste water is fed into a media bed which can grow just about anything you can pick from peppers to strawberries.
That nutrient-rich water flows into a floating garden.

Since the aquaponics garden is a completely closed system, the produce are not exposed to the contaminants that can make consumers sick.

"There's no bacteria growing on it," Neal added. "This is a very, very, safe, clean product."

Neal also said because the produce is virtually bacteria free, it will have a longer shelf life.

"Will this replace traditional farming? No, but it's a fantastic supplement though," Neal said.

Cleaner, greener produce your family could one day serve up with peace of mind.

"I really can't think of who couldn't benefit from this," added Neal.

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