Local university studies move from agriculture to “aquaculture”

    Researchers at Cheyney University say they’re in line for a new federal grant to expand what’s known as an aquaculture project. The results so far can already be found on your grocer’s shelves. WHYY’s Bill Hangley has more.

    Researchers at Cheyney University say they’re in line for a new federal grant to expand what’s known as an aquaculture project. The results so far can already be found on your grocer’s shelves. WHYY’s Bill Hangley has more.

    Photo: Paul Goyette

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    Tilapia with basil may sound like a nice entree at your local seafood restaurant. But scientists at Cheyney University’s Aquaculture Research Center say they’ve found a new way to combine the popular freshwater fish with the herb commonly found in pesto and Italian sauces. Dr. Stephen Hughes calls it a modern version of the aquaculture practiced in Asia for thousands of years.

    Hughes: We have four tanks up there where we’re raising the tilapia. The tilapia are fed. The waste products that come out of the tilapia are actually food for the basil. So the basil are floated on top of the water column, their roots reach down into the water, they take the waste products that the fish are releasing, and they use that to grow with.

    Hughes calls the combination a highly efficient “mini ecosystem” that produces almost 600 basil plants a week.

    Yesterday the university announced that it’s in line for a federal grant of almost $200,000 to expand the project. Hughes says the funds will help them raise awareness of a form of food production that’s perfectly suited for urban environments. Aquaculture fans can already find the fish-fed basil in area supermarkets. It’s under the brand name Herban Farms.

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