Sustainability Series #6 -- What is Aquaponics at CCA?


Harvest tilapia in Chicago? Yep. Nancy Zook, former art teacher and now Sustainability Program Manager at CCA Academy came to St. Mary's to share an amazing story. At the Near West side campus, students are getting hands-on experience with sustainable aquaculture systems.

The aquaponics concept (a combination of aquaculture and hyrdroponics) works like this: fish tanks--some as large as 525 gallons--are teeming with fish (mostly tilapia). They generate nitrogen-rich water which is circulated out to grow beds where plants such as lettuce and basil are fed by the nutrient rich water. The plants help to filter the water for the fish, and they thrive in an organic, chemical free environment. The first batch of market ready fish were harvested in the fall, but interestingly the school is having great success with their breeding program, and may focus on spawning and providing the hatchling and fingerlings to other organizations.

In addition to the great symbiotic relationship they are nurturing between plants and animals, they are providing an amazing opportunity for students to learn science in a hands-on environment.

CCA Academy, an Outreach partner of St. Mary’s, is a charter school dedicated to providing a second chance for people aged 17-21 to earn a high school diploma. It is located in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.