Aquaculture for all

NWC aquaponics aids Moldovan poverty trap

MOLDOVA - A team of staff and students from Northwestern College in Iowa have travelled to the Republic of Moldova in an effort to help local residents raise fish and grow vegetables.

The group will be installing an aquaponics kit at a home in Nisporeni, Moldova, in cooperation with the charity For God’s Children International.

The project, entitled Teach a Man to Fish, was begun by business professor Mike Avery and the Northwestern Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team he advises. Through four years of research, development and experimentation, the team has manufactured a self-sustaining kit that combines aquaculture and hydroponics to provide subsistence for people in developing nations. SIFE seeks to help alleviate poverty by selling the inexpensive kits to relief agencies around the world.

The aquaponics system enables plants and fish to grow together, with the fish waste providing a food source for the plants, and the plants filtering the water in which the fish live. The Northwestern group plans to purchase enough fish, fish food and plants so 100 carp or trout can be harvested from the system in six months to help feed children and other community members. They also expect to grow tomatoes.

Dave Nonnemacher, Northwestern’s director of experiential learning will be making this journey with Dr. Abe Scheaffer, assistant professor of biology; Vonda Post, associate professor of business and economics; and Angela Jiskoot, a senior business administration/marketing and human resource major from rural Sheldon, Iowa.

While in Moldova, the Northwestern contingent will set up the system; provide training for Petru, the local resident who will manage the project on-site; and help the Moldovans develop a business plan that will enable the project to be viable.

"Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. Unemployment is very high — up to 80 percent in some villages — so those who have the ability to leave go to other European countries to find work. It’s a rough place to live.

“My goal is to help feed people I know and love, and that when they see how they can provide for themselves, they will have hope,” says Nonnemacher.

Scheaffer says the project enables Northwestern to use research to positively impact others’ lives. “Teach a Man to Fish offers Northwestern College an opportunity to be stewards of the resources God has given us, including the academic training and talent of faculty and students,” he says. “I anticipate having students involved in further research and development of this prototype as part of courses that pertain to plant and animal growth.”

Teach a Man to Fish was one of 12 finalists in the 2007 Pappajohn New Venture Business Plan Competition.
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