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A GROWING PASSION: Aquaponics: Fish Poop To Plant Roots

Stream now or tune in Thursday, July 22, 2021 at 8:30 p.m. on KPBS TV + Monday, July 26 at 8:30 p.m. on KPBS 2

Host Nan Sterman and aquaponic beds.

Credit: Courtesy of Michael Gerdes / AGP Productions

Above: Host Nan Sterman and aquaponic beds.

Available to stream anytime with the PBS Video App

Host Nan Sterman returns for Season 5 of A GROWING PASSION, a television show that celebrates all the ways that San Diego “grows,” from farms and nurseries to backyards and schoolyards, to native habitats and more.

It’s an ancient practice with a new twist. Aquaponics is a mashup of hydroponics (growing plants in a water medium) and aquaculture (fish farming).

It is the practice of using fish wastewater as fertilizer for plants, whose roots filter the water, cleaning it sufficiently to be returned to the fish.

In this episode, we visit homeowners, a non-profit, and even a restaurateur using this highly efficient system to grow a stunning array of fruits, vegetables and freshwater fish.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Michael Gerdes / AGP Productions

Host Nan Sterman holds a very large aquaponic radish.

We meet an engineer from the city of Santee, California, who grew frustrated with his backyard raised beds and set out to find a better way.

Today, he has two fishponds, one that holds 800 gallons filled with catfish and tilapia, and an ingenious series of vegetable growing bins made of recycled beverage containers.

Pumps and timers keep it all going, whether he is home or out of town. He grows enough to provide most of the produce and a significant amount of protein for his family of four.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Michael Gerdes / AGP Productions

Host Nan Sterman and home aquaponics.

Then we travel to Escondido, California, to visit the Eco-Life Institute which has a history of creating conservation programs that regard the environment and humans as a whole.

Aquaponics to them is a way to grow food in regions with little arable land and a minimum of water.

Their prototype system in Escondido is part of a larger educational program that also puts demonstration aquaponics systems into schools.

We visit a middle school garden club and science program in Vista that is one of their sites. We spend a day with the students, learning to assemble a medium sized aquaponics system in the school garden.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Michael Gerdes / AGP Productions

Chef Adam Navidi shows Host Nan Sterman his aquaponics system in Brea, Calif.

In Brea, California, we visit Chef Adam Navidi, owner of Ocean and Earth Restaurant. Navidi’s aquaponics system fills 10 recycled greenhouses on 65 acres of former nursery land. There, Navidi raises 20,000 tilapia along with thousands of heads of lettuce, basil, and other produce that he uses in his restaurant.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Michael Gerdes / AGP Productions

Host Nan Sterman and Chef Adam Navidi check out the aquaponic floating rafts in Brea, Calif.

Navidi is an avid recycler and reuser so the greenhouses have many different styles of aquaponics systems, some invented by Navidi himself.

After touring the facility, we head to Ocean and Earth in nearby Yorba Linda, California to enjoy the products of Navidi’s efforts (and they are delicious!).

Photo credit: Courtesy of Michael Gerdes / AGP Productions

Chef Adam Navidi shows Host Nan Sterman a tilapia from the tank.


Episodes of A GROWING PASSION will be available for streaming on demand following the broadcast. All past seasons are available on demand now at or with the free PBS Video App.

A GROWING PASSION: Season 5 Preview

See a preview of Season 5 of A GROWING PASSION which starts on April 20, 2017. We visit hops growers, the San Diego Zoo, seed farms, hydroponic growers, and learn about native bees and urban forests. Host Nan Sterman offers gardening information, tips, and advice to grow a better garden and better understand the growing world.


A GROWING PASSION is on Facebook, and you can follow @GrowingPassion on Twitter. Share photos and follow the series on Instagram.

Future Foods Farms on Facebook. Oceans and Earth Restaurant is on Facebook. ECOLIFE Conservation is on Facebook.


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