Ivy Academy’s Garden: Agriculture Education and Research outside Chattanooga

Ivy Academy's existing garden flourishes on compost collected by students from lunches.

Ivy Academy’s existing garden flourishes on compost collected by students from lunches.

The Ivy Academy is not your average middle and high school. The charter school off of Dayton Pike in Soddy Daisy is a collection of modular classrooms and outdoor areas with an emphasis on hands-on learning of the sciences through their on-site wildlife sanctuary and nature trails that run through the North Chickamauga Conservation Area. Lunch is served in compostable containers and eaten with compostable utensils and their regular lunch program is supplemented by food grown in the school’s garden, which is maintained by a gardening class 35 minutes a day. In addition to feeding the students, produce from the garden is also sold at a stand in the spring and summer, and the excess is donated to the Chattanooga Food Bank. The garden is also home to a unique greenhouse made from repurposed 2 liter soda bottles, which was created as part of one student’s senior project, which each student is required to complete during their last year.

Greenhouse constructed out of recycled 2 liter bottles

Greenhouse constructed out of recycled 2 liter bottles

The newest addition to the Icy Academy garden is the chicken tractor, which was built and donated by Tyner High School two weeks ago. Chicken tractors are modular, movable chicken coops where chickens are allowed to be free range and content pecking in the dirt, while simultaneously preparing the soil for planting. When the chickens have thoroughly scratched the ground, the tractor is moved a few feet over so the chickens have fresh ground to feed from. The Ivy Academy chicken tractor houses four chickens right now, two pairs of pure bred silkie chickens (one white, one black) which were donated from HATponics’ silkie chicken families. Ivy Academy plans to use the chickens to study genetics and explore the possibilities of cross breeding black silkies and white silkies. In collaboration with Future Environmental Educators of America, they will then take the chicks and use them to start other poultry projects at schools around Chattanooga. They hope to raise awareness of the amazing health benefits of these chickens which are often only considered ornamental in America. I wrote about these benefits on our blog last December: https://hatponicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/chinese-white-silkies-and-chicken-tractors/

Angie Markum, Director of Ivy Academy; Holly Slater, Environmental Education Programmer; Ansley Eichhorn, Garden Programmer

Angie Markum, Director of Ivy Academy; Holly Slater, Environmental Education Programmer; Ansley Eichhorn, Garden Programmer celebrating Tacky Dress Day on the day we came to visit

Our champion teachers, Holly Slater and Ansley Eichhorn, at Ivy Academy hope to get more students involved in gardening and environmental science through future projects in the garden, which HATponics is proud to be a part of.

HATponics CEO Ryan Cox Speaks to Rossville Exchange Club

Rossville Exchange Club

HATponics CEO Ryan Cox spoke to the Rossville Exchange Club on Thursday about HATponics’ recent projects and progress, as well as our dedication to creating and keeping jobs in Rossville, Georgia.

The Rossville Exchange Club is the second oldest branch in the state and is a charitable club dedicated to raising money and awareness for the prevention of child abuse, the Cottage, and the Chattanooga Crisis Center. They also are responsible for awarding Ridgeland High School’s student of the month, as well as awarding a scholarship annually for the Student of the Year, and the officer of the year for the Walker County Police Department.

This is Ryan’s second time addressing the club, the first was as a representative of Inner City Aquaponics (the precursor to HATponics) a year and a half ago. It was a great opportunity to share the immense changes and progress we have made in the last year and a half with the community we call home.

STEM Education – Imperative for Future Jobs

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education is one of the most integral curriculums in our schools. Students with a background in STEM education will have an advantage in their future careers, at a time when the job market is so uncertain and unsteady. STEM occupations are quickly growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM occupations, and people with STEM related careers earn 11% higher wages than people with the same degree in other careers. Despite these and many more surprising statistics, STEM is becoming less and less of a priority. Elementary students are allotted less time for science education than they were 15-20 years ago.
It is important to expose students to STEM education at all ages, and an excellent way to do that is through aquaponics. Over the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of seeing how HATponics incorporates aquaponics into STEM based education. I’ve seen elementary kids light up with excitement while learning about the life cycle of fish, I’ve seen high school students learning how to construct and maintain aquaponics systems, and I’ve been inspired by the instructors and administrators who put so much of their hearts into these amazing projects. One teacher even admitted to “tricking” his students into some fairly complicated math under the guise of aquaponics. Programs like these are perfect for teaching STEM, because students who learn in a hands-on, interactive way are more likely understand and retain information. Even outside of STEM, there are English teachers who have their students write about what they have learned, art teachers who have their students depict different aspects of aquaponics, and history teachers who use aquaponics as an example of how others have lived in the past.
Most importantly, we can teach students a responsibility for their world through real world problems and solutions. Students will now know how their food is grown, and many of the issues faced by farmers worldwide. They will learn the important balance between food and the environment, and they will be able to develop skills that will allow them to make a real difference in the world. People in STEM careers are those that are working to cure cancer, reverse global warming, save endangered species, and solve global hunger problems. STEM students are the future, and it is important for us to foster that love and curiosity of the world around them.


Mary Klinghard
Director of Education


Click to access Fact-Sheet-STEM-Education-Good-Jobs-and-American-Competitiveness-June-2013.pdf

Gilbert Elementary Aquaponics Classroom

Sustainable agriculture education reaches new heights in Walker County, Georgia as Gilbert Elementary School in LaFayette, Georgia is now home to the largest indoor aquaponics classroom. _MG_8559


Students have planted a multitude of edible plants which will grow food to be donated to the CARE Foundation. The wonderful teachers at Gilbert Elementary have created an environment for their students which fosters a love for the sciences and a way to get excited about learning. Principal Matt Harris, who was largely responsible for the introduction of aquaponics to the school, teaches lessons himself on the life cycles of plants and the math and science involved with the operations of the aquaponics systems. Nearly every teacher in the school has found a way to incorporate the SPLASH Lab, as it is called, into their curriculum, reporting that the students are ecstatic every time they have an opportunity to spent time in the futuristic-looking indoor agriculture lab.

Matt Harris, principal at Gilbert Elementary explains the usage of bell siphons in the grow beds

Matt Harris, principal at Gilbert Elementary explains the usage of bell siphons in the grow beds

Ryan Cox, CEO of HATponics explains the mechanics of aquaponics to the superintendent of Calhoun City Schools, where HATponics may be headed next

Ryan Cox, CEO of HATponics explains the mechanics of aquaponics to the superintendent of Calhoun City Schools, where HATponics may be headed next

Outside of the SPLASH lab is another HATponics installation in an outdoor pond

Outside of the SPLASH lab is another HATponics installation in an outdoor pond


Tennessee TENN


Ryan holding our winnings check

Ryan holding HATponics’ winning check

Ryan has recently returned from a tour around the state with the Launch Tennessee’s TENN tour, the master business accelerator program which introduced HATponics, alongside 9 other Tennessee startup companies to potential partners and investors around the state.

Ryan presenting in Nashville

Ryan presenting in Nashville

Ryan presenting in Chattanooga

Ryan presenting in Chattanooga

We hope to have made some strong connections through the TENN tour that will help us to fulfill our vision of feeding the world through aquaponics.


LaunchTN TENN Tour

Press release from LaunchTN:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Sept. 6, 2013 – Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN) has announced that Chattanooga, Tenn.-based HATponics is one of 10 startups chosen to participate in The TENN, the state’s first master accelerator program, sponsored by The Blackstone Charitable Foundation. A panel of out-of-state investors chose HATponics from among 20 companies that pitched at LaunchTN’s statewide demo day on Aug. 27


“We are thrilled to have HATponics as part of The TENN,” said Charlie Brock, CEO of LaunchTN. “Their state-of-the-art farming technology could make huge improvements to the way we grow produce and feed the hungry.”


HATponics uses aquaponics to provide high quality organic produce. It has developed the world’s first portable farm and maintains several completely sustainable, organic agriculture ventures on four continents.


“We are happy to have HATponics representing Chattanooga startups in the first Tennessee master accelerator program,” said Sheldon Grizzle, founder and co-director of CO.LAB, the regional accelerator that helped HATponics refine its business model. “They have a unique concept that could change the way we address world hunger. It has great humanitarian potential and the ability to make money by providing their product to grocery stores.”


The TENN is the country’s first master accelerator program. It will kick off with The TENN Roadshow, where The TENN will meet with corporate executives throughout the state. Later during the master accelerator program, the members of The TENN will fly to California and the East Coast to network with entrepreneurs, investors and media. Other benefits of The TENN program include access to 40 master mentors from across Tennessee, including investors, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders; office space in the nearest regional accelerator or a subsidy for the company’s existing office space; and events that introduce the companies to high-level, industry-specific Tennessee connections.

Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN) is a public-private partnership focused on supporting the development of high-growth companies in the state of Tennessee with the ultimate goal of fostering job creation and economic growth. LaunchTN focuses on four key areas: entrepreneurship, commercialization, capital, and outreach. LaunchTN is in part funded by a grant from the State of Tennessee. Please friend LaunchTN on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/LaunchTN), Twitter (www.Twitter.com/LaunchTN), YouTube (www.YouTube.com/LaunchTN) and Flickr (www.Flickr.com/LaunchTN).


Inner-City Aquaponics Nominated for STEM Awards for Contributions to Georgia and Chattanooga Schools

Inner-City Aquaponics Named a STEM Education Awards Finalist

Technology Association of Georgia Recognizes Award Finalists focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education


ATLANTA (August 30, 2013) – The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), the state’s leading association dedicated to the promotion and economic advancement of Georgia’s technology industry, today announced that Inner-City Aquaponics has been named as a Finalist in the  category of Corporate Outreach for the  2013 Georgia STEM Education Awards.

The Georgia STEM Education Awards recognizes schools, programs, and companies for outstanding efforts and achievements in supporting and promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education in Georgia.

Inner-City Aquaponics is dedicated to increasing awareness and education about sustainable agriculture and green growing practices through aquaponics. Inner-City Aquaponics, based in Rossville, GA, is responsible for the installation of a number of aquaponics-based farming systems, laboratories and greenhouses in schools around the State.

Inner-City Aquaponics was named a finalist during a special press conference telecast presented by TAG in collaboration with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) and the STEM Education Awards broadcast sponsors, Cisco Systems Inc. and the US Department of Commerce- Economic Development Association.

“It was truly a challenge for our judges to select the 2013 finalists from among more than 170 applicants from around Georgia,” said Michael Robertson, Executive Director of TAG Education Collaborative. “We must continue building a wave of activities that will prepare our students for the global workforce they will inherit, and we hope recognizing these organizations and their programs will raise awareness on the importance of STEM education for our state’s economic future.”

This year’s Finalists were chosen in 8 different categories:

  • Elementary School
  • Middle School
  • High School
  • Post Secondary Outreach
  • Extracurricular Program
  • Best Use of Technology in Classroom or Program
  • Corporate Outreach
  • Best STEM Day Activity

Winners in each category will be officially honored at The 2nd Annual Georgia STEM Education Awards event held on September 27th at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center in Savannah, Georgia.  The event is presented by TAG, the TAG Education Collaborative (TAG-Ed), a non-profit 501c3 dedicated to advancing STEM education in Georgia, and TAG Savannah.

“Recent Studies show that Georgia will need to fill approximately 211,000 STEM-related jobs by 2018,” said Tino Mantella, president & CEO of TAG. “The 2013 Georgia STEM Education Awards finalists are helping to prepare the tech-ready workforce to fill these jobs and we applaud them for standing out as leaders in Georgia’s educational community.”

For more information about TAG and the 2nd Annual Georgia STEM Education Awards or to attend the event, visit bit.ly/STEMreg13 .


About Inner-City Aquaponics

Inner-City Aquaponics is a non-profit organization founded in 2012 by Ryan Cox dedicated to the advancement of sustainable agriculture education and technology. Aquaponics is a sustainable farming method combining aquaculture and hydroponics which creates a symbiotic relationship between plants and fish that enables the grower to produce proteins and produce using 10% of the water used for traditional farming techniques. Inner-City Aquaponics has brought aquaponics education to several counties in Georgia, preparing students of all ages for futures in farming and environmental sciences; and most importantly, an awareness of where food comes from and how to produce it in the most space efficient, environmentally friendly ways possible.


About TAG Education Collaborative

TAG Education Collaborative is dedicated to developing science, technology, engineering and math initiatives in Georgia. Through partnerships with statewide STEM programs, TAG-Ed fosters student interest in STEM in order to increase appreciation for the opportunities available through technology careers. TAG-Ed hosts an internship program for high school students, two web-based team challenges for students interested in Health IT and web design, and the Vine Event, an annual fundraiser benefiting STEM education. For additional information, visit TAG Education Collaborative or contact Michael Robertson at (404) 920 – 2038 or mrobertson@tagonline.org.



About The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG)

The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) is the leading technology industry association in the state, serving more than 21,500 members and hosting over 200 events each year via 5 chapters across the state including Metro Atlanta, Athens, Augusts, Columbus, Macon/Middle Georgia and Savannah . TAG serves as an umbrella organization for 33 industry societies, each of which provides rich content for TAG constituents. TAG’s mission is to educate, promote, influence and unite Georgia’s technology community to foster an innovative and connected marketplace that stimulates and enhances a tech-based economy. The association provides members with access to networking and educational programs; recognizes and promotes Georgia’s technology leaders and companies; and advocates for legislative action that enhances the state’s economic climate for technology.    For more information visit the TAG website at www.tagonline.org or TAG’s community website at www.TAGthink.com.



Gilbert Elementary Aquaponics Classroom Progress


Rock filled beds act as natural biofilters

The educational aquaponics classroom laboratory at Gilbert Elementary in Walker County Georgia is nearing completion, nearly ready for the beginning of the school year when sustainable agriculture education will be an important subject for the young students.


Tim, an intern from Chattanooga State, paints one of the fish tanks and prepares the lining.

The aquaponics classroom has been named the SPLASH lab – Student Project-based Laboratory in Aquaponics and Sustainable Hydroponics. Students will learn about sustainable growing practices, the life cycles of plants and fish care, as part of their STEM curriculum.


The finished deep water raft systems with freshly planted arugula

The finished deep water raft systems with freshly planted arugula





Aquaponics in Georgia Schools

Wow! What a busy month we have had here, there’s been no time to update this blog! We are working on some very awesome projects in the sustainable agriculture education arm of our operations. Through grants from the state through the STEM program, we have expanded our projects at Gilbert Elementary and are in the process of installing a 2000 square foot indoor aquaponic system that will be a fully functional sustainable agriculture classroom by the start of the 2013/2014 school year.



We are also currently working on a large greenhouse installation for Lafayette High School which will utilize a similar deep-water tank setup that has been used at Ridgeland High School for over a year now, but with new and improved modifications.


Lafayette High’s will be a complex system that includes a catfish hatchery component built into the aquaculture tanks. _MG_2850


Water will flow through the tanks and plant beds and be pumped back through the ceiling to create a closed loop cycle. Like Ridgeland, the high school students from Lafayette will receive unparalleled agriculture education, preparing them for a future in sustainable agriculture development as well as provide them with scholarship opportunities through Future Farmers of America. More importantly though, it will give them a deep understanding of where food comes from, and how possible a world of sustainable growing really is, where food insecurity and famine are a thing of the past.


I hope to get back in the swing of updating regularly as these and other projects progress. We have been working hard to finish these installations before the school year begins and hope to spend the next year expanding our efforts further in Chattanooga and other surrounding areas.

Chattanooga Aquaponics – the Solution for Chattanooga’s Green Movement

As Chattanooga, TN rushes headlong towards becoming one of the greenest cities in America, cleaning up its less than dubious former reputation as one of the dirtiest, the brownfield programming in the city is one to be incredibly proud of. Over the last couple decades, our entire riverfront in the downtown area has been transformed from an industrial wasteland to a vibrant and bustling community of businesses, parks and art installations, with similar transformations in other areas of the city that were previously unusable due to years of abuse by industry.


Inner City Aquaponics and HATponics of the greater Chattanooga area, feel that the position of the city can be further affected in a positive manner by applying these lands for the greatest benefit of the community by creating an internal farm and sustainability system using Aquaponics. Aquaponics the hybrid sustainable farming system that incorporates hydroponics and aquaculture into a balanced farming ecosystem, this is a seemingly perfect application of use of recently reclaimed lands that do not need to be used for the furtherance of industrial pollution.

Chattanoogans should be very proud of the major efforts to clean a toxic landscape, what better pinnacle of reclamation than turning previously poisonous area into functioning farms to benefit the community? Aquaponics can provide a suitable farming format to take this reclamation to the next level of “re-building” by utilizing portions of these reclaimed lands that are not able to again house major buildings due to the cap of topsoil and clay on top of the land. What better place to position a farm for the benefit of the community?

Many of the areas that are currently under the brownfield remediation programs are already in much underserved communities with little access to food and little access to economic improvement. A farm can serve as a trifecta of progress for the under-serviced areas of our city.

Aquaponics provides both food and economic development opportunities for Chattanooga, without further impacting the soil that has been remediated. Fish tanks raising fish and vegetable beds that raise food using the effluent from fish in a closed loop system can provide the ultimate solution for a city blazing a superhighway of eco-friendly development as we erase our past as one of the most polluted areas of the nation.

Aquaponics farms have no harmful environmental impact and produce the high quality organic food that our community is clamoring for. As a social movement Aquaponics programming is transforming the way we interact with ecosystem and produce food. The programs for our children that stem from the implementation of Aquaponics into a community program are also of paramount importance. The children in the communities impacted by brownfield remediation are often at the lowest poverty levels and greatest levels of economic hardship. By coupling economic development with educational opportunities linked to an understanding that healthy foods support healthy lifestyles, Chattanooga has a unique opportunity to take the restoration of our cityscape and apply urban development initiatives that directly impact the very citizens that the brownfields negatively impacted to begin with.

Ryan W. Cox

Inner City Aquaponics/ Hatponics