Together we grow: Aquaponics can change the way we grow food in the desert and beyond

An assortment of crops are seen growing out of lava-rocks in a terraced platform with water flowing through a pipe from one level of the terrace to the next.

Charles Collins' aquaponic garden. Water pours out from one garden bed overflowing with home grown vegetable plants, into another lava-rock filled bed. (Photo courtesy of Charles Collins)

Audio Story by Chris Zatarain

Tucson resident Charles Collins’ backyard garden may be unlike any other home garden you’ve ever seen. He’s opted to grow aquaponically rather than in a traditional in-ground garden. 

Aquaponics is a system of growing food in a closed-loop system that integrates live fish, a soilless medium, plants, and mineral-rich water. Charles designed and built his aquaponics system by blending forms of traditional ecological knowledge and modern scientific understanding, as well as low and high technologies to grow an abundance of fresh vegetables and sustainable protein to feed him and his family.  

Charles Collins takes a selfie while standing in front of the aquaponics system in his garden.
Charles Collins and his aquaponic garden.
(Photo courtesy of Charles Collins)

His work and influence continues to expand across his local community and around the world, with technologies he developed being adapted and used in cutting edge scientific  endeavors at NASA and the World Health Organization (WHO). His main mission, though, is in getting more people interested in growing their own food.  

According to Charles, aquaponics is the answer to growing abundant, nutritious, and sustainably-sourced food in a changing climate for everyday people interested in taking more control of their food security. 

This piece is intended to acquaint you with the warm and wonderful Charles Collins, a man working to change the way that the world grows food.

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