Aquaponic Life by Lora Luo

The research Lora Luo is communicating is about optimizing aquaponics, which refers to a food production system that uses the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals to supply nutrients for plants to be grown, which in turn purifies the water. This method of farming could be much more sustainable than conventional agriculture. Luo started by reflecting on how aquaponic could be relevant to her life–what an “Aquaponic Life” would look like–and made some interesting connections between day-to-day objects and core initiatives of aquaponics.

Hand soap was Luo’s first inspiration, which has become one of the essentials in her daily life since the pandemic hit. The corresponding piece is at the bottom right of this work, and she was trying to convey the message that practicing sustainability is as important as dealing with the pandemic since they are both so close to our life at the moment. 

Then she illustrated the other three: the top left is a magnifier, which represents the ongoing research on aquaponics; the top right is an electrical outlet, which touches on the energy aspect of aquaponics and how they can reduce water waste using finely engineered systems; the bottom left is a cake that highlights aquaponics as reliable food production systems.

Food security and sustainability should not be left out of our daily conversation, and more awareness about novel solutions should be brought up. Luo really appreciated this learning experience about aquaponics, and she hopes you enjoy it as well!


Lora Luo is a Junior majoring in Chemistry with a certificate in Graphic Design. Luo is interested in communicating science through illustration or combining her enthusiasm for art and science in general. Her current research interest is in directed evolution, and she is also illustrating some exciting genetics and cell biology content. Follow her on Instagram @huistudio1 if you are interested in making further connections!

ABOUT THE Water Researcher

Dr. Andrea Hicks is an Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at UW-Madison specializing in using life cycle assessments and modeling to quantify environmental impacts of products and processes. Her work includes industrial ecology, or using basic ecological principles to better understand and design human products. Her interests include agent-based modeling, the rebound effect, and environmental implications of technology, and she is currently researching sustainable food production using aquaponics.

Funded by the Center for Humanities HEX-U Undergraduate Exchange.