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CCA unveils country’s largest educational aquaponics facility


Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), a Pennsylvania public cyber charter school, today unveiled AgWorks at CCA, the largest public educational aquaponics facility in the country. Aquaponics refers to systems that combine conventional aquaculture (raising and harvesting fish) with hydroponics (growing plants without soil).

AgWorks at CCA, which was funded by a federal grant, will provide students with hands-on learning experiences in a 6,100-square-foot, controlled-environment, agriculture center located at CCA’s Capital Campus in Harrisburg.

The AgWorks at CCA facility is a sustainable, zero-waste ecosystem. It uses fish to fertilize plants, resulting in higher yields of produce than traditional agriculture. Bio-controls have replaced pesticides, ensuring that the GMO-free produce is free of contaminants. Solar panels located on the roof of CCA’s Capital Campus supply 100 percent of the energy needed to power the AgWorks at CCA facility.

The hands-on experience that the AgWorks at CCA facility provides to students is the latest example of CCA’s focus on career readiness. Under the guidance of teachers and horticulture experts, students will manage the AgWorks at CCA facility by growing and maintaining nearly 3,000 plants and approximately 400 fish, all while learning about aquaponics, hydroponics and aeroponics (the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or similar materials). Students also will have access to three labs to conduct scientific experiments in research, genetics and culturing tissue.

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According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, agriculture and food-related industries employ nearly 500,000 peoples across the state. By 2025, there will be 75,000 new and replacement job openings in agriculture and food careers in Pennsylvania. A May 2018 market research report by BIS Research states that the global aquaponics market is expected to reach $1.98 billion by 2022. That report details how productivity from both aquaponics and hydroponics farming can be achieved in approximately 10 percent of the land area and 5 percent of the water volume required for crop production. Additionally, crops can be produced year-round.

“Professionally working in the field of aquaponics is what I want to do for a career,” said Nathaniel Saxe, an 11th-grade CCA student. “This facility is just incredible. What CCA is offering me in high school is something that most colleges aren’t capable of. I’m able to gain more knowledge now and better prepare myself for a career.”

Dr. Maurice Flurie, CEO of Commonwealth Charter Academy, said in a prepared statement that, “CCA is committed to inspiring our students to become productive citizens and AgWorks at CCA gives us another platform for them to learn as we assist in that journey.

The unveiling Tuesday included a  ceremonial harvest along with student-led tours and samples of produce that are growing at the facility.

AgWorks at CCA is headquartered at the CCA’s Capital Campus in Harrisburg, 1 Innovation Way, across from the PA Farm Show complex.  For more information, visit agworks.ccaeducate.me.

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