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by Lauren Saylor
In the spring of 2016, a woman named Stephanie Merrill piloted a project at Ithaca College titled “The Microbial Safety of Aquaponic Produce: A Comparative Analysis of Pathogen Presence in Conventional Soil Systems.” Stephanie’s project tested for the presence of Escherichia Coli in aquaponic fish, water, and lettuce, as well as store bought lettuce. My project draws upon her finding that it would be more cost-effective and beneficial for the researcher to do their own microbial testing. Therefore, for my project, I will be responsible for completing all water tests on-site. Further, I will not only be testing our research team’s on-campus aquaponics system, but our hydroponic system, the hydroponics system utilized by Sodexo’s dining hall, and an aquaponic system utilized by Main Street Farms in Homer, NY. This water testing will be completed through microbial analysis. Once a 100 mL sample has been collected from each of the four systems, a Colilert IDEXX system will be utilized to quantify Escherichia Coli presence. This process will be completed on a weekly basis for 13-14 weeks. Once this process is completed, a statistically significant number of tests will have been taken from each of the four systems. The Federal Department of Agriculture’s standard for agricultural water of less than 410 colony forming units (CFUs) per 100 mL will be utilized to conclude how suitable aquaponic and hydroponic produce is for human consumption. Click here to read Lauren’s full action plan.