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Topeka-based project to fund international aquaponics program in the Dominican republic

If you give someone a tilapia, he eats for a day.

Teach the same person to grow tilapia in a storage tank system that also grows edible plants, and that person eats for a lifetime.

And, potentially, so does everyone in his village.

Such is the philosophy behind a ground-breaking aquaponics effort sponsored by Topeka-based Trash Mountain Project that is slated to get started in earnest by next May in Santiago, Dominican Republic. The aquaponics program then is to be taken to other impoverished areas around the world.

Aquaponics is a sustainable system that allows plants to be grown without soil in nutrient-rich water.

Trash Mountain Project’s system will grow a type of fish known as tilapia, the waste from which will provide nutrients for water that is circulated by pumps, siphons and gravity to growth tanks for plants.

For the past few months, Chris Mammoliti and Isaac Tarwater have been working at a newly constructed Trash Mountain Project building in the 4100 block of N.W. 62nd to perfect an aquaponics system similar to one that will be built next May in the Dominican Republic. The building, which sits on the northwest corner of N.W. 62nd and US-75 highway, contains special grow lights and a total of 11 interconnected tanks, with water circulating through each one of them.

Four of the tanks are filled with tilapia of various ages and sizes; five are grow tanks where various kinds of produce can be grown; and two tanks filter out impurities and help provide nutrients to keep the whole ecosystem functioning.

The setup is allowing Mammoliti and Tarwater to refine the aquaponics process before starting construction in the Dominician Republic.

“The goal is for us to make our mistakes here, before we start building the system in the Dominican Republic,” said Mammoliti, aquaponics director for Trash Mountain Project. “So this is the prototype.”

Mammoliti, 55, who previously worked as a biologist at Westar Energy before coming on board with Trash Mountain Project, said a work crew from Topeka’s Fellowship Bible Church will go in May to the Dominican Republic to build the first system.

Tarwater, 24, who started with Trash Mountain Project in August, then will stay behind to help Dominican Republic residents learn how to operate and maintain the system.

Both Mammoliti and Tarwater are taking Spanish classes at present so they will be able to better communicate with Dominican Republic residents.

The estimated cost to build a system overseas is $20,000, Mammoliti said, though no one will know the final cost for sure until the first one is built. The plan is to buy as many supplies for construction and repair work from businesses based in the Dominican Republic.

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Category: DR News |

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Last updated March 25, 2017 at 5:40 PM
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