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Back to the Roots AquaFarm is a Fun Science Education Gift

Updated on July 21, 2014

Gift an AquaFarm to a Classroom to Make Learning Science Fun

I learned about the AquaFarm, a self-cleaning fish tank that grows herbs, when Back to the Roots co-founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez were looking for fund their intriguing business idea. These U.C. Berkeley students were trying to raise funds by a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter in the Spring of 2013.

I decided to back this original idea an ordered one for my daughters. The Kickstarter campaign was a huge success, raising nearly $250,000 almost $150,000 over the original target goal of $100,000,

After learning more about this sustainable ecosystem based on an old Aztec style of farming, I pre-ordered a second Aquafarm as a gift for their science teachers.

This unique and innovative aquarium looked like a really fun way to teach students about sustainable farming and hydroponics as a fish tank/herb garden that could be set up in the classroom.

The Ancient Farming Method of the AquaFarm

The AquaFarm is based on ancient sustainable farming techniques developed by the Aztecs that combined two different sciences:

  • Aquaculture - the practice of raising fish in tanks
  • Hydroponics - the practice of cultivating plants in water

Combining aquaculture and hydroponics results in Aquaponics an ancient farming method that combines raising fish in tanks with cultivating plants in water.

The Science Behind the AquaFarm

In regular terms, an explanation of how the AquaFarm works:

  • The fish poop nitrogen.
  • The fish poop (with the nitrogen) is picked up by the plant roots.
  • The nitrogen and other nutrients in the poop is used by the plants to grow.
  • The water gets cleaned by the plants and supports the fish.

The fish does need fish food, since the plants aren't able to provide fish food to this ecosystem.

Learning Benefits from the AquaFarm

There are many learning benefits from having the Aqua Farm in the classroom. The obvious ones are learning about the sciences of hydroponics, aquaponics and aquaculture.

They have also learned about naming, as the class selected and then voted on a name for their Betta fish. Charlie won out over Bubbles.

Since my daughter has been the designated fish feeder, she has learned responsibility of feeding and caring for a pet in the school setting. She has come home worried a couple of times that she'd forgotten to feed Charlie, the fish. When we were gone for a week of school, my daughter had to work something out with her classmates so someone else would remember to feed Charlie.

As a physician and nutrition teacher, I've gone into my daughters' classrooms to teach them about healthy foods. Needless to say, I was thrilled to hear the kids were excited about trying the wheatgrass and basil growing in their AquaFarm herb garden.

"Would Your Recommend Having an AquaFarm in the Classroom?"

This was the question that I gave my younger daughter to answer, the one who is in charge of feeding the Charlie the fish, her response.

Yes, because it is cool.

They find it interesting and they like to eat the food that grow.

The kids in my class are always poking at the fish tank.

They also like to have pets in the classroom.

Not many classrooms have a pet.

Our class is considered lucky by the other classes because we have a fish,

If you look at the reviews from Amazon the main concern has been with the pump and the tubing. The Back to the Roots guys have a Troubleshooting section on their FAQ page for the AquaFarm. They have also sent out messages to the backers on the issues. I received an email from them October 8 where they addressed two issues that have been raised:

  1. The Pump - With further testing they have discovered that the pump functions better outside of the grow bed, so they recommend moving the pump outside. This helps to increase performance, reduce the chance of overheating and increase performance.
  2. The Tubing - They are sending new, longer, and thicker flexible tubing to backers who have been in contact with them so buyers can use the alternate pump setup.

I've checked with the teacher in my daughter's classroom and with normal use in the classroom, they haven't experienced any of the issues discussed on the Amazon reviews.

In our experience, the AquaFarm has been a fun way for kids to learn more about having a pet, and growing food with a new and emerging type of growing plants or agriculture through aquaponics.

Photo Credits

Photos of Charlie in the AquaFarm Copyright (c) 2013 Kirsti A. Dyer.

Photo of AquaFarm in the Box and Wheatgrass by Hackaday. Some Rights Reserved.

Background Diagram Sketch of AquaFarm from Back to the Roots.

Explore the AquaFarm in Photos

Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Aquafarm Diagram with Charlie by Kirsti A. DyerAquafarm with Charlie by Kirsti A. DyerAquafarm in the Box by Hackaday. Some Rights Reserved.Aquafarm with Wheatgrass and Basil by Kirsti A. DyerAquafarm with Wheatgrass by Hackaday. Some Rights Reserved.Introducing a Betta Log to Charlie by Kirsti A. DyerAquafarm with Charlie and Betta Log by Kirsti A. DyerBlue Betta Fish from AquaFarm, Back to the Roots.Diagram Sketch of AquaFarm from Back to the Roots.
Aquafarm Diagram with Charlie by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm Diagram with Charlie by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm with Charlie by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm with Charlie by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm in the Box by Hackaday. Some Rights Reserved.
Aquafarm in the Box by Hackaday. Some Rights Reserved.
Aquafarm with Wheatgrass and Basil by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm with Wheatgrass and Basil by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm with Wheatgrass by Hackaday. Some Rights Reserved.
Aquafarm with Wheatgrass by Hackaday. Some Rights Reserved.
Introducing a Betta Log to Charlie by Kirsti A. Dyer
Introducing a Betta Log to Charlie by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm with Charlie and Betta Log by Kirsti A. Dyer
Aquafarm with Charlie and Betta Log by Kirsti A. Dyer
Blue Betta Fish from AquaFarm, Back to the Roots.
Blue Betta Fish from AquaFarm, Back to the Roots.
Diagram Sketch of AquaFarm from Back to the Roots.
Diagram Sketch of AquaFarm from Back to the Roots.

Additional Products for the Aqua Farm

While not necessary adding a fish feeder, betta log and using Tidy Tank will help make keeping an Aqua Farm a better overall experience.

Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder
Fish Mate F14 Aquarium Fish Feeder

The fish feeder helps in feeding the fish over the weekend when no one is around to do so.

Adding a fish feeder to the Aquafarm can be very helpful for the teachers, so they don't have to come in to feed the fish on the weekends.

 
Zoo Med Floating Betta Log
Zoo Med Floating Betta Log

The floating Betta log will give your Betta fish something to do during the day.

 
Marina Betta Kit Plastic Plant, Hairgrass
Marina Betta Kit Plastic Plant, Hairgrass

The plastic hairgrass plant looks a lot like the wheatgrass, but can be used to entertain the Betta Fish.

 

Videos on Back to the Roots AquaFarm

Find out more about the personal sustainable ecosystem, the Aqua Farm, in these different videos. Learn about the project from Back to the Roots and the Daily Grommet. Watch AquaPonicsMan's unbox of his AquaFarm and see am AquaFarm interview at a Gift show.

To explain how the Aqua Farm works to students the unofficial video by Mikkel A. Gammmelgaard, Ilona Baciuskaite and Kristine Visnape from the NOMA students, Nordic Multimedia Academy, in Denmark is very helpful.

Share Your Thoughts on an Aqua Farm Does this look like a fun activity to have in a classroom?

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