Sweet Water AQUAPONS - connecting and badging innovative urban farmers
Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) aquaponics training program, gained through experience at one of the leading aquaponics farms in the world, Sweet Water Organics, is developing an online badge-based platform which allows SWF to accelerate learning in the field of aquaponics, and to extend the reach to our partners throughout the world.
Sweet Water AQUAPONS utilizes a badge-based learning system to support the next generation of innovators in the field of aquaponics, an innovative sustainable farming technique. The program is administered by Sweet Water Foundation (SWF), an organization that uses a commercial aquaponics center to offer educational programs in the field of urban agriculture, for the purpose of building resilient, food secure, urban communities. AQUAPONS builds upon SWF’s development of a comprehensive set of “Kindergarten to Career” STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) learning opportunities in partnership with K-12 educators and post-secondary learning institutions. Such learning opportunities are being developed through the Midwest Aquaponics Expertise Development Initiative (MAEDI).
How did you use the HCD Toolkit and / or human-centered design as part of the project?
Sweet Water AQUAPONS is the culmination of an ongoing, three-year-old human-centered design process. Sweet Water, as an urban farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a center for technological and expressive innovation. Since our inception in 2009, our efforts to build a commercial aquaponics farm in a re-purposed, abandoned factory building have attracted architects, engineers, school teachers, investors, artists, rural farmers, and many others. Inspired to grow food, and to re-purpose underutilized human and material resources, these individuals have informed Sweet Water Foundation, our non-profit outreach branch. Through conversations and tours on the site of our farm, visits to various places throughout the Milwaukee community, and integration into existing schools and universities, Sweet Water Foundation has developed a model approach for inspiring others to farm in the city: a combination of experiential practice and digital connectivity to others in the community.
What was the biggest challenge that the project faced? Did you overcome it?
Sweet Water's main challenges have been in the technical field. Aquaponics is a very new technology, only researched and practiced in the modern world for the past 25 years. Therefore, most developments in the field of aquaponics are experimental - providing challenges to profitability for commercial enterprises, and delays in the advancement of community enterprises. The best way to overcome these preliminary technical challenges is increased communication among our small community of practice. To this end, we have engaged in intense email communication between people who are practicing aquaponics in other parts of the US and around the world. We have engaged in online learning communities for aquaponics, and we have traveled to conferences, while others have traveled to us. Most recently, the AQUAPONS online learning and assessment platform will begin a new era in the connected learning experience for this new, promising field of agriculture.
What is (or will be) the impact of your project?
Sweet Water AQUAPONS has a multiplying network impact on its participants' knowledge and experience in aquaponics, as well as their motivation to learn more and to teach others. It encourages those who are interested in aquaponics to continue to learn, share, and innovate in a collaborative manner. Essentially, AQUAPONS pairs 21st century technology with the age-old process of agriculture. We have begun with the school systems in Milwaukee, WI and in Chicago, IL, and in Kochi, India. Over the next 3 years, we hope to connect the hundreds of thousands of individuals practicing aquaponics throughout the world.