The Growth of Michigan Aquaponics

When examining where Michigan Aquaponics is today, it is easy to forget that our club was only founded in 2015. Two years ago, we were a dozen underclassmen students with ideas about sustainability but no real plan on how to implement them. We are a now an established club with thirty members, several active projects, grant funding, partnerships, and more on the horizon.

An example of this growth can be seen on the technical side of the club with our Beta Prototype. The Beta is a system that has been in development for essentially as long as the club has existed. Much like the club itself, it began as a thought experiment on how to best utilize and explore existing technology for our purposes. As we researched and gained knowledge about the technology, we began working to create our own designs. Once our own designs began taking shape, we started honing our ideas into one system that could actually be built and implemented.

In a similar fashion, Michigan Aquaponics went through a period of goal establishment and project scoping. This was the point that the club transitioned from an idea around a table to an organization with a mission. Though this purpose, much like the initial design of the Beta, was fluid at the start, having an objective in sight focused our attention and ensured that the club continued to develop.

The next stage of the Beta process was finalizing a design and laying the groundwork to begin production. We did this by creating a 3D model of our system then looking at the needed pieces and sourcing our materials. This groundwork for Michigan Aquaponics was done when we wrote our constitution and became a sponsored student organization (SSO). This work was done to legitimize our club in the eyes of the university and to prepare ourselves for new members.

The next stepping stone was the initial build phase. This, to me, was the most exciting time. It was the point where we got to see if all our planning was done correctly and, if it was not, what kind of problems you have to solve. For the Beta, there were many initial issues that we had not thought to consider in our initial design. We expected this as it was our first major system, and this was the first time we were able to apply our theoretical knowledge. For the club, this was our first time recruiting new members. We had a club, a constitution, and a booth at Festifall, so the next step was to find interested students to join. Much like the Beta, there were unexpected complications that we learned from and knew we would have to approach differently moving forward.

The next phase, the final build, is the stage we are in right now, both with the Beta and the club as a whole. It is the step right before testing, when everything is starting to come together and you can almost hear the engine of the club purr. This is where the last bit of redesign occurs, things such as adding an outflow pipe to a filter or having a logo professionally created. It is the last stage before testing can begin and we can determine if our framework and implementation work just the way we want them to.

Michigan Aquaponics has grown an unbelievable amount in the last two years. Looking back over the journey that the club has taken to reach its current state seems impressive, but the true improvements are still ahead. We need to continue to innovate and grow our club to ensure that we can keep on our trend of constant improvement. If we continue on our current trend, Michigan Aquaponics will be a successful and innovative club for many years to come.


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