Auburn Foods Tiger Dining


On-Campus Partners

College of Agriculture

Auxiliary Facilities Maintenance

Auburn University Extension

Food Sciences

Food Systems Institute

Department of Horticulture

Department of Fisheries

Office of Communications and Marketing

Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Department of Animal Sciences

The Lambert-Powell Meats Laboratory

Biosystems Engineering


Other Local Partners

Tiffany Denson (T.Lish Dressings)

Ralf Du Toit (Hydroponic farmer)

Frank & Helen McEwen (McEwen & Sons Grits)

Jesse Chappell (Jesse’s Girls Honey)

Sarah Barnett Gill (Momma Mocha Coffee)

Ken and Julie Ledbetter (Fire Truck Barbecue)

Fox Point Farms (Goat Milk Caramels)

Hornsby Farms (Jams & Jellies)

Trey & Will Sims (Wickles Pickles)

Bashira Chowdhury (Pollinators)


A man sprinkling seasoning on a pan of fish.

Auburn University is in the business of improving lives. The projects on campus that have goals of supporting humankind can be found all over campus. Because there is such a large variety of projects, some may be unknown to students.

The aquaponics system at Auburn University Fisheries started in 2006 when two greenhouses were constructed through grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The greenhouses that were constructed are now homes to tilapia, cucumbers, and tomatoes.

In an aquaponics system, fish are fed high-protein feed. Their solid excrements are removed through passive filtration and their liquid wastes are used to irrigate crops in a separate greenhouse. This process allows for large food production while using a limited, sustainable amount of water.

According to Mollie Smith, a graduate student at Auburn University who works directly with the aquaponics system, "This project is important for Auburn University because aquaponics is bigger than any one discipline and requires creativity and departmental collaboration to reach its full potential."

The aquaponics project has grown since 2006. The fish, cucumbers, and tomatoes that are produced through this project are now given to AU Tiger Dining to feed students on campus. This partnership began in 2015.

Tiger Dining's involvement has provided a market for the food produced by the aquaponics system. "Tiger Dining's commitment to this project has allowed us to attempt to realize the potential of this system to produce food, gather economic data on that production, and conduct research for the benefit of improving the system," said Smith.

Corey Holmes, an engineering student at Auburn University, said, "I think it's the future of gardening. It's very sustainable and it makes me proud that my peers have been involved with research that will help feed future generations to come."

Smith says students play a huge role in the success of this aquaponics system. "Students from a host of different departments are diligently gathering data and studying the system. Also important are the students who are supporting this endeavor with their Tiger Dining dollars, as they purchase meals including tilapia and vegetables."

Students can find the tilapia at API. The tomatoes and cucumbers are served at API, Plains to Plate, Wellness Kitchen, Village Dining, Terrell Market, and Terranova Salads.

Smith wants students to know that when they purchase food produced at fisheries, they are promoting and supporting research that will help feed the future. Students who want to know more about the process are encouraged to take a group tour of the aquaponics system.

The School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences have a student-run market every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. where they sell products produced by the aquaponics system.

Auburn University Fisheries is a partner of Auburn Foods, a brand representing foods made by Auburn for Auburn. For more information on Auburn Foods, visit

For more information about aquaponics, visit AUquaponics on Facebook and Instagram.

McEwen & Sons Grits

Frank McEwen at Terrell Market holding his family's grits.

Frank McEwen was recently elected to be the Student Government Association's Treasurer. Many may know this, but may not know that McEwen and Sons Grits on campus is owned by his family.

When asked how he felt about seeing his family's products on Auburn's campus, McEwen said that he enjoyed having the products here. He thinks it is cool when his friends make the connection between him and his family's products.

Every time he comes home to visit, his dad packs his Volvo with at least 100 pounds of grits to feed Auburn University students.

McEwen wants Auburn students to know that McEwen and Sons Grits is a family business. He thinks that this type of business has a huge impact on local economies and the world.

"A lot of times it [family businesses] can get drowned out by big businesses," said McEwen.

He was not hesitant to say that Auburn University was his first school choice. "If we are being honest, this is the only place I applied," said McEwen.

This sentiment toward Auburn runs in the McEwen family. His father and his two aunts both attended Auburn University. According to McEwen, they have held season tickets since 1972.

The business started in 2002 when his dad decided that he wanted to make grits. McEwen said once his dad has an idea, he is determined to accomplish the task. This character trait is something that McEwen shares with his father. As far as working for his family's company, McEwen said it's definitely a possibility.

"I would encourage people when they see our product, and when they find value in our product, to just remember that it's a small business. It is done by my dad, a couple of employees, my brother and me," said McEwen.

T.Lish Dressings

Denson Standing with her sweet garlic dressing available at Terranova Salads.

Tiffany Denson, the founder of T.Lish dressings, is an Auburn University alumna who graduated with a bachelor's degree in radio, television and film. She was an Auburn University student from 1991-1995, and she recently moved back to Auburn a year and a half ago.

Denson has always had a knack for cooking, but when her family fell on hard times during the real estate market downturn she decided to use her dressings to help. What was once a neighborhood favorite was now flying off of store shelves. T.Lish dressings have taken off since then, and can be found in many places, including Foy Hall at Terranova Salads.

Her mission is to make healthy food taste better. She is a strong believer in eating seasonal and fresh foods. "I don't like to cook with preservatives and I don't like additives. I try to do organic as much as I can," said Denson.

She believes the millennial generation understands how critical nutritionally sound food is for a healthy lifestyle. "If you take care of your body, your body is going to take care of you," Denson said. She wants to make healthy foods accessible to everyone, including Auburn students.

Being an Auburn alumna, Denson knows the struggle of being a student. She originally wanted to get a degree in nutrition at Auburn University, but chemistry stood in her way. "My soufflés were perfect, but I couldn't pass chemistry," Denson said. This is a common struggle many Auburn students still face.

She believes that her experiences at Auburn University helped her to be where she is today. Specifically, she mentioned the classes that focused on connecting, collaborating and creating with others. She says that these classes helped her prepare for the entrepreneurial position she is in today.

Denson is excited to be back in the Auburn community. She spoke about how it was good to get back to where she had planted roots. "There is truly something special about this place."

Extreme Green Hydroponics

Ralf Du Toit is pictured with his daughter Caroline in a greenhouse.

Ralf Du Toit, owner of Extreme Green Hydroponics, is a local farmer who has formed a relationship with Tiger Dining by selling his lettuce at the Terrell Market.

"The university is very important to me from a sales perspective," said Du Toit. "It's a good feeling to say I sell to the university, especially since my daughter Caroline goes to Auburn."

Caroline, a sophomore in agricultural economics, chose her major while helping at her father's farm, where she is gaining real life experience helping fill orders for customers. The father-daughter duo represents just one of many local products available on campus.

Last updated: 04/21/2017