PhD: Food Resilience by Aquaponics

PhD opportunity at the Institute of Integrative Biology of the University of Liverpool, UK:

“Food Resilience by Aquaponics: solving the technical challenges related to promoting soil-free intensive agriculture at the domestic and community level.”

This project is about solving the technical challenges related to promoting soil-free intensive agriculture at the domestic and community level, reducing transport­ related carbon emissions and delivering food resilience. The method is aquaponics: low­-impact, high-­density agriculture that has a recognised potential to increase food sustainability). By combining elements of aquaculture and hydroponics, aquaponics offers reduced input requirements and waste disposal load in comparison to each individually, while still providing high volume fish and vegetable outputs.

Operations can be tailored to diverse environments, including arid, urban and soil­ polluted areas. Recirculation and biofiltration of water reduces the load on agricultural water sources (in contrast to both hydroponics and soil­-based growing). Hydro-­agriculture reduces the load on soil, and inland aquaculture can reduce the load on sea fisheries. Access to technology is a key barrier to entry; the method relies on a continuously balanced multi-element ecosystem and requires a combination of technical and agricultural inputs. We propose to lower these barriers by technical innovation and social interventions.

The PhD project will yield open source measurement and control electronics for domestic and small-scale users. The data collected will be aggregated and shared in a community of practice – generating knowledge in this emerging technology. We will also engage schools via events and providing systems and lesson elements.

This PhD project will involve automation of sensing, monitoring and control, exploiting new generation embedded computation (Internet of Things), single­board computers and microcontrollers. We will collect environmental data, log energy use, crop types and volumes and utilize this aggregated data to answer questions such as: will specific cultivars of lettuce grow in Liverpool in winter with no additional lighting? What sustainable fish feed combinations work for trout?

Application deadline: 26th of May 2017

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