Development and Deployment Internet of Things (IoT) in Aquaponics Experiments




Howell, Nathan
Askarian, Benham
Bright, Barrett
Grant, Spencer
Ksor, Madilyn

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In this project, our aim was to create a physical Internet of Things (IoT) water quality sensing toolset that we could put into a lab aquaponics system. Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture to grow fish and crops together. Water quality is very important to the overall efficiency of resources used in the process. We purchased some off-the-shelf sensors for water temperature, water salinity, and pH and connected them into an inexpensive microcontroller. The microcontroller guides the data collection from the sensors in an aquaponics growth experiment which includes recording the data at regular intervals and then sending it to an app so that we could watch it remotely. We did not get as far as long we would like. We wanted to get where we had three individual sensor sets working and well calibrated to be just as accurate as hand measurements that we take from a manual digital probe. However, we are getting close to this state, automated data logging and monitoring. We will continue to work on these sensors to get these working and therefore make IoT monitoring of aquaponics experiments at WT a regular tool in our work. Over time, if we can find a way to create inexpensive sensor arrays for aquaponics, the ability to optimize, control, and better understand aquaponics production both for research and for general practice should to increase.


The need for profitability in aquaponics. Aquaponics, the co-production of fish and plants in a common recirculating water supply, as a technical concept has been in place in a public form since the 1970s. In one way or another, a series of papers over the last 10 years has been attempting to answer the question, When will aquaponics become viable as a commercial venture where it is needed in the world? Technical challenges for aquaponics are frequently issues of nutrient management and efficient use, the operation and choice of system type, management of water supply and use, and the match between aquatic organism and crop. Regarding nutrient use, macronutrients, which can be shared between fish and plants, are phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N). These two nutrients are the biggest driver for the linking of aquaculture systems into coupled or decoupled loops. When a coupled (single recirculating loop) system is used, the rate of nutrients supplied to crops and the general water quality that crops experience, will be very similar to what fish-rearing tanks and biofilters experience. The potential advantage of a decoupled system is that pH and temperature can be adjusted differentially in plant beds and fish rearing tanks. Additionally, greater control over fish to plant nutrient loads can be altered directly according to how much water is allowed to pass between fish and plant loops. Challenges in aquaponics adoption are a mixture of economic and social concerns. These include, questionable profitability; whether the inclusion of fish with crops (as opposed to hydroponic only production) is justified; the perceptions of consumers about the safety, quality, and value of aquaponics grown food; the energy costs of an aquaponics operation; the high capital investment; and the amount of specialized knowledge required to operate an aquaponics facility. Use of IoT sensors in aquaponics. There have been several papers that discuss the need or potential for IoT, but few have done much more than employ them in a basic demonstration. We want to use this project to combine IoT in aquaponics to improve performance and economic viability. We hypothesize that there is a beneficial cooperation that could be had between aquaponics operators who have a business interest in success and a system-based understanding of aquaponics and IoT sensors. Specific research objectives we attempted in our work are: (1) Design circuits that employ water quality sensors which we can deploy in several experimental (300 L each) aquaponics systems. (2) Analyze the temporal data on water quality over a single six-week production cycle to ascertain the value of the additional high time resolution sensing of water quality conditions. These are experiments of engineering design and testing. We therefore tested several water quality sensors and their ability to continuously monitor water quality conditions during actual aquaponics experiments. We made adjustments to what sensors we used and how we calibrated them according to what we see in the data and in comparison to traditional wet chemistry and manual measurement sensors.


2024 Faculty and Student Research Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, College of Engineering, Poster, Aquaponics, Hydroponics, Aquaculture