Aquaponics project faces problems with fish death and plant growth, RPM club plans for upgrades


Nadia Saadatmandi (So.) and Jack Ren (Sr.) talk about the future of the aquaponics project in the 300s quad (Sabrina Huang)

News Writer
The Renewable Project Management club (RPM) is planning to add a number of upgrades to their current aquaponics project. Among these are the construction of new solar panels, the replacement of current plants and the addition of new fish.
Aquaponics is a more sustainable and environment-friendly method of raising fish that incorporates a system of pipes that recycles water between fish and plants.  
The aquaponics project has recently run into a number of problems with the death of a number of fish and the lack of successful plant growth.
According to current president Nadia Saadatmandi (So.), the club will add more fish to compensate for a number of deaths since the start of the project. Though the fish currently in the pond are koi fish, RPM is also thinking of adding other varieties to open up different opportunities for the club.  
“We’re hoping to add more fish to the pond to help get the natural cycle going,” Saadatmandi said. “Later on we’re hoping to maybe switch them out for tilapia. That way we can have them grow in the pond and we can later sell them to restaurants to bring in more money so we can keep on going on with the process.”
Despite recent complaints of dead fish, the club wants to make sure students know that death is an inevitable and unavoidable result in raising fish.
“For any fish growers out there, they know that there is a definite collateral,” former president of the RPM club Jack Ren (Sr.), said . “As you can see, we don’t have a full pond of dying fish…And we didn’t even feed [the fish] for a couple of months now. They are actually self-sustaining pretty well at this point [and] are feeding on the algae growing in the pond.”
According to Saadatmandi, a number of students have taken dead fish out of the pond to give to the different animals on campus.  
“I’ve been told by different sources that people have been taking our dead fish and giving them to the geese around campus,” Saadatmandi said. “I really don’t want people to do that because the geese might get accustomed to the fish and they might come and start taking our fish.”
In addition to introducing  more fish to the pond, the RPM club is planning to replace a number of plants with rosemary, mint and basil. The plants currently situated in the pond is kale.
“What we want to do first hand is to replace the plants because they’re not doing quite as well as we were hoping,” Saadatmandi said. “So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take certain set of seeds that we have and grow them at the members’ houses and they’re going to grow and we’re going to change out the plants.”
The possible date of the completion of these plans is not known, but it most certainly will be done before the end of the school year.  
“The main idea [is] that it is almost spring,” Ren said. “It is a new opportunity for plants to grow and that’s where our first set of progress will start. At the spring period we can put our plants and fish in and see over the summer how it grows and see where it goes from there.”
The RPM club is also planning to build solar panels in an attempt to make the project more environmentally-friendly.
“At this point the solar panel is still at its concept stages,” Ren said. “The idea [of] a solar panel is very simple. It is something that once we receive we can work with it.”
Though the cost is not yet known, RPM has partnered with several corporations to help fund the project, one of them being SlapFish.
“The idea is that for the most part, companies will like to cooperate and many of these companies are very generous in terms of making sure that the progress goes on,” Ren said. “At this point we need to have our base project stabilized and that’s what we’re doing.”
The possible date of completion of these panels is also not yet known.
RPM will also continue their “adopt a fish” program, which has helped raise significant amounts of money for the club.
Besides focusing on the Aquaponics project at UHS, Ren and Saadatmandi have plans to start similar projects at nearby high schools. Currently, Woodbridge High School and another high school in Huntington Beach have similar projects.
“Mr. Pehrson (former UHS principal and current Portola High School principal) wanted a new project going and so had the idea of letting the students create different projects,” Ren said. “And we are wishing to definitely collaborate with different schools as well as [help] them out in the process.”