RAVENSWOOD - A new community project at LifeSpring Community Church is combining aquaculture and hydroponics to produce food for needy people via aquaponics.

“We’re combining aquaculture and hydroponics,” explains J.D. Scritchfield who is helping Lisa Simmons spearhead the church’s new community service projects. “There will be a 250-gallon tank with fish and the water from the fish tank will filter into 4 x 8 lined grow beds to feed plants with their roots in the water with nutrients from the fish basically cleaning the water and that runs through a sump pump back into the fish tank to complete the system.

The project will use blue tilapia to begin with which grow well and can thrive in such a tank environment. Once up and running, the project goal is to harvest fish approximately every six months at the same time the vegetables grown are harvested.

“There are a lot of needy people, so there will be a lot of outreach involved,” said Scritchfield. “It’s about providing free food to people who need it. Hopefully, we can reach out and make a difference by providing nutritious meals to people that they don’t have to go on the shelf to make. It’s something that’s catching on.”

Lisa Simmons attended workshops on aquaponics at West Virginia State College, and came back with the idea to utilize the greenhouse—something church members had been looking for. WVSU personnel came up to LifeSpring Community Church and were very positive in helping get the local project started. Lifespring Church members liked the idea and got on board. LifeSpring is doing the aquaponics project in partnership with the local Hispanic church, which meets at the LifeSpring facility off Washington Street. 

The local aquaponics project is being put together in a greenhouse structure behind Lifespring Community Church, where Scritchfield says there is room for four tank-grow systems.

“Tilapia have to have warmer water. Once we get the first system up and running, we want to install another with bluegill and catfish which we know winter well here,” he said.

Scritchfield hopes to have the project’s first phase up and running in a couple of weeks.

“We’re excited about it,” he said. “These systems can turn out lot and lots of fish and vegetables, and there are a lot of folks who can use it.”