Aquaponics Ark in Menden: Education on natural closed circuits

The continuing trend of urban gardening comes in many forms. A specific example is aquaponics, a closed water and nutrition circuit in which fish farming is combined with vegetable cultivation. Aquaponics not only saves water but is highly efficient in other ways too: No fertiliser is necessary and the plants, fed by natural fertilisers, grow much quicker. In the Noah’s Ark Nature Reserve in Menden, an aquaponics installation is used for environmental education.

Worldwide population increase, pressure on land and climate change: What is needed are innovative, space-saving and ecologically sustainable techniques of food production. Aquaponics fills the bill: here fish and plants share the same circulating water and thrive on it.

Bacteria change the fish excreta into nutrition for vegetables. The plants in turn absorb the CO2 produced by the fish and convert it into oxygen. The addition of antibiotics and pesticides is unnecessary. And the system hardly requires any fresh water. Basically it is a cycle of natural biological processes.

Engine for progress:

  • demonstration of efficient food production
  • unique education project based on aquaponics
  • consciousness-raising for dealing with food
  • sustainable management of the installation

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Photo: Arche Noah, Menden

The first tank in the display installation is ready to receive fish.

Aquaponics installation for environmental education opened in Menden

A new aquaponics installation at the Noah’s Ark Nature Reserve in Menden demonstrates how the system works. The “Erlebniswelt Aquaponik” (Aquaponics Experience) is designed to teach schoolchildren responsible attitudes to food. The idea is that anyone who directly experiences food production will think twice before throwing food away.

A visit to the installation also promotes understanding of natural interrelationships: The system demonstrates how animals and plants are interdependent – waste products of one become raw material for the other. Schoolchildren can carry out experiments themselves, record data and evaluate the results. In this way, aquaponics shows the pupils how much nature does to maintain the stability of the ecosystem. For the children must precisely work out, through artificial reconstruction, what happens in nature ‘on its own’.

Proven learning model for schoolchildren, benefit for food industry careers

The children learn about climate protection as well as about topics such as water use and water quality, environmental pollution and land shortage caused by food production. The aquaponics experience follows a scientifically proven learning model: Many themes are contained in the syllabus of NRW schools and can be discussed on the spot or later in the classroom. Adults can also gain valuable insights from the installation: Especially farmers, gardeners and cooks can learn much to enrich their working day.

Sustainability as the centre point

The installation itself is also designed in a strictly sustainable way: The cycle requires two main inputs: energy and fish food. Energy for the water pumps is generated by a photovoltaic array on the spot in the nature reserve. The fish get food without fish meal. Thus installation manager Ulrich Hering avoids the processing of small wild fish, which would be removed from the natural ecosystem when caught.

Photo: Förderverein Arche Noah

“To quote Boris Pasternak: What we do today determines what tomorrow’s world will look like.”

Ulrich Hering, Chair of the Noah’s Ark Nature Reserve Foundation

Partners and sponsors

  • Förderverein Wasser und Naturschutz Arche Noah e.V.
  • Stiftung Umwelt und Entwicklung