Aquaponics arrives in Buffalo



Jesse of MAP with (part of) their fledgling aquaponics system.
A week ago, in the middle of steady rain, I took a tour of some very interesting community gardens and urban farms on Buffalo’s West Side. Totally new to me was the Massachusetts Avenue Project’saquaponics start-up, located in a straw bale greenhouse they completed in 2008. We’ve mentioned this as a possible trend once or twice, but this is the first time I’ve seen one in action (or almost).

It works something like this. A large tank of fish (tilapia) syphons its waste water into gravel beds of vegetables, feeding the plants with the fish nutrients. The plants purify that water, which flows back into the tank. When the fish and the plants are mature, they’re ready for consumption. The plants grow faster, very little water is needed, and, providing the system is properly constructed, there is little in the way of maintenance other than feeding the fish and harvesting the herbs, vegetables, or whatever is being grown.
There are tons of videos illustrating this on YouTube. Check it out; seems like something an intrepid home gardener could do. I notice that a lot of the home set-ups use common aquarium fish, which would not be eaten (I’m hoping).
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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


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