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Gianna Short, Chengyan Yue, Neil Anderson, Carol Russell and Nicholas Phelps

Aquaponics, an integrated system with both hydroponic plant production and aquaculture fish production, is an expanding alternative agriculture system. Many key questions about the overall feasibility of aquaponic systems remain unanswered. Of particular concern for start-up and established producers alike are consumer perceptions and willingness to pay for aquaponic produce and fish. This study reports results and analysis of a consumer survey about perceptions and preferences for aquaponic-grown products that was conducted in Minnesota during Feb. 2016. Probit and ordered probit models are used to evaluate the probability of different consumer demographic segments having various levels of knowledge and perceptions about aquaponics. About one-third of respondents had previously heard of aquaponics, and upon learning more about the system through the survey, respondents tended to be generally neutral or favorable to aquaponics. Price might be an issue for many consumers, but many tend to believe that aquaponics can impact the environment in a positive way. The results represent a first step toward building knowledge about the potential consumer base for aquaponics, which is a critical piece in the system’s potential overall profitability. It appears that consumer education and marketing will be key for the expansion of the market.

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Marie Abbey, Neil O. Anderson, Chengyan Yue, Michele Schermann, Nicholas Phelps, Paul Venturelli and Zata Vickers

Aquaponics, the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture into one growing system, is a controlled environment production system that potentially has increased environmental and consumer benefits over traditional production methods. There are many different ways to configure aquaponics systems that include different fish species, water circulation, lighting, plant species/density, and more. We tested three cultivars of lettuce, a common aquaponically produced crop, for yield in multiple aquaponic systems and conditions over a 13-month period in Minnesota. Four different aquaponic configurations and four types of fish were tested over the course of the experiment. There was no addition of supplemental nutrients to the systems to evaluate the differences between treatments and set a baseline. There was no difference in yield between lettuce produced aquaponically and those grown in soilless medium. However, there was a difference in yield between lettuce grown with different fish treatments. The tilapia treatment produced higher average yield than yellow perch. There was a difference between cultivars, with higher average yield from loose-leaf bunch cultivars (Salanova, Skyphos) than the bibb type (Rex). Average yield for all but one treatment was above that of reported commercial field production, making lettuce a competitive aquaponic crop in most systems.

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Chengyan Yue, Zata Vickers, Jingjing Wang, Neil O. Anderson, Lauren Wisdorf, Jenna Brady, Michele Schermann, Nicholas Phelps and Paul Venturelli

The present study systematically investigated the effects of warehouse and greenhouse aquaponic growing conditions on consumer acceptability of different basil cultivars. A total of 105 consumers rated their liking of three basil cultivars (Nufar, Genovese, and Eleonora), each grown in three conditions (aquaponically in a greenhouse, aquaponically in a warehouse, both with Cyprinus carpio, Koi fish, and grown in soilless medium). We used linear random effect models to investigate consumer preferences for attributes of basil plants grown in different environments by controlling for individual-specific random effects. Participants generally liked the soilless medium–grown and greenhouse aquaponically grown basil plants more than the warehouse aquaponically grown plants. The soilless medium–grown basil had the highest appearance liking and flavor intensity, followed by the greenhouse aquaponic grown and then by the warehouse aquaponic grown. Aquaponically grown cultivars were rated less bitter than soilless medium–grown cultivars.