Posts By Trish Popovitch
With almost a decade’s worth of aquarium design, filtering technique and fish tank science under their belts, Eric Suen and Kevin Liang, co-founders of Aqua Design Innovations, feel confident they have the experience, knowledge and vision to offer a sustainable aquarium that utilizes aquaponic growing techniques at an affordable price.
Their product, the EcoQube, is a desktop-size, self-regulating aquaponic ecosystem complete with plants, fish, and lighting. The pair launched a Kickstarter campaign on Nov. 30, 2013, hoping to raise $39,000 by Jan. 12, 2014. If funded, the money will enable the company to start production.
Jeff Hafner and his father Earl run Early Morning Harvest Farm in Panora, Iowa. The father-and-son pair has run the organic farm since 2000 on a piece of land once owned by Earl’s father. In the last decade, the farm has expanded to include not only a cattle herd and traditional row crops, but 200 or so free-range chickens, a flour mill to process grains grown on-site and an aquaponics business that grew out of an evening hobby. The farm is currently breaking even, and that’s only because the need to hire a full-time aquaponics worker cut into the profits.
Success has come fast for Beverly and Dave McConnell of Utterback Farms in Middletown, Missouri. Almost overnight, the couple has established an aquaponic farm and are just months away from making a profit.
The McConnells inherited the farm, which was established at the turn of the last century, from Beverly McConnell’s parents. It was Beverly’s avid gardening hobby, inherited from her Depression-era grandmother, which led the couple to enter the world of commercial growing in their retirement.
Global competition in the automotive industry that began in the 1970s has resulted in catastrophic job loss, economic decline, depopulation, and elevated crime for Flint, Michigan over the past several decades. So now, the once thriving company town is looking to redefine itself by utilizing the city’s vacant land as an asset to support a new, sustainable economy based on urban agriculture.
It all started with a Facebook post.
Nick Papadopoulos was working as acting general manager of Bloomfield Farms, his wife’s parents’ 45-acre organic vegetable farm located in Northern California. One day, he found himself alone in the cooler after a farmer’s market, sipping on a beer and observing all of the unsold food that would soon become part of the farm’s chicken feed and compost bins.
Suddenly, he had an idea. Instead of giving premium organic produce to the chickens, why not give it to hungry people? So, he went online to Facebook and started typing. The original Facebook post offering leftover produce that started the cropsourcing website known as CropMobster can still be seen on the site today.
Ryan Chatterson has figured out that special combination of skills needed by today’s aspiring aquaponic farmer: the ability to grow and the ability to market.
Chatterson began his five-acre Florida-based aquaponics farm, Chatterson Farms, to feed his family and community with nutritious produce he calls “better than organic.”
“We follow organic standards but use no pesticides (they will kill the fish), 90% less water and can provide more food from a smaller footprint (than traditional agriculture),” explains Chatterson. “We have zero waste discharged from our facility and are extremely energy efficient which leaves more room for profit and growth.”
In addition to selling high-end greens at the local farmers’ market, Chatterson provides 35-50 families per week with fresh vegetables for their table through a home delivery club.
An Ohio native who moved to the bright sunny state of Southern California, Jeff Mott decided his life had a different purpose. That purpose meant leaving behind the SoCal lifestyle, buying an Amish homestead on the Virginia/Ohio border and initiating a lifestyle change that has not only proven to be profitable, but has also changed his entire perspective.
35 miles outside of Wheeling, West Virginia lies the Mott Family Farm, the Ohio-based haven of two former California residents, Jeff and Shelley Mott, who craved a back to basics approach to life, a slowing down of pace and an opportunity to share a love of growing that began in California. Land prices and moving closer to Jeff’s father were only part of the equation. Mott felt his California lifestyle was missing a sense of community.
It’s not often that you hear of a region in California that hasn’t far surpassed the rest of the nation when it comes to understanding the import of local sustainable agriculture. That’s probably because you haven’t shopped for locally produced leafy greens in Long Beach. And if you have, you’ll know urban farms are few and very far between. That’s why Sasha Kanno, founder and president of the nonprofit Long Beach Local and owner of Farm Lot 59 feels herself quite an isolated drummer in the march for local growing.
Tired of commuting to Los Angeles for a career in the film industry, Kanno decided she wanted a family and bought a home, along with her husband, in Long Beach’s historic district. A mere block away was a distressed urban area losing itself to the violence of local gangs. Kanno helped begin a community garden on a vacant lot in the housing project. “I saw the potential for food production while I was doing that garden,” explains Kanno.