The world’s over-fished oceans have reached maximum sustainable yield at about 90 million metric tons per year, and many fish species like tuna are facing extinction. Not only is seafood over-fished, but it is oftentimes imported and obtained through unsustainable fishing and economic practices.
Bill Spencer, president and CEO of Hawaii Oceanic Technology, Inc., recognized this problem and a number of others with the commercial fishing industry. “The United States imports 85 percent of the seafood is consumes, half of which is farmed, resulting in a $12 billion trade deficit, the second largest natural resource trade deficit behind foreign oil,” he relays. “The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has declared that we need to double farmed-seafood output within 30 years to meet demand.”
As a response to these statistics, Spencer and oceanographer Paul Troy set out to make the commercial fishing industry more sustainable, forming Hawaii Oceanic Technology in 2006.
The idea of eating only locally-grown, seasonal food sounds appealing. Until you move to the desert. With an average annual rainfall of less than 13 inches, Tucson, Arizona is somewhat less than hospitable to traditional, soil-based agriculture. And fish? Forget it.
But, it was not the land that drew Stéphane Herbert-Fort to the Sonoran desert. It was the sky. He came to the University of Arizona to study astronomy and graduated with a PhD in 2011. Midway through his grad studies, however, he unearthed a deeper ambition than life as an academic.
“As a longtime fan of sustainable technologies and organic gardening, I wanted to join the two and make an impact on urban agriculture in Tucson. It was the perfect time for a change. Aquaponics fulfills my passions: to grow as much food as possible, simply and sustainably.”
Hydroponics, the practice of growing crops in nutrient-rich water as opposed to soil, in concert with aquaculture, the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs, etc., creates a sustainable, symbiotic farming system called aquaponic farming. Aquaponic farming is not a new form of farming, but other than many of the readers of this website few people know about it. Three men, Gabriel Michels, Timothy Kirk and Nicholas Fox, who partnered to create Grass Roots Aquaponic Farms LLC, located in Oregon City, Oregon, hope to change that. The idea was planted years ago.
“Actually, I was inspired back in high school,” says Michels. “That was about 10 years ago. Nic and I were in the same class and our school got a grant to have a complete aquaponic setup. It was great! We grew all kinds of vegetables.”
A Head of Lettuce from 1,000 Miles Away, or a Sack of Greens from the Vertical Urban Farm Across Town?January 2, 2013 | Melonie Magruder
In a perfect world of competitive business, twenty-first century startups have some high hurdles to overcome: the ideal is to offer a product that is beneficial for the consumer, leaves a negligible carbon footprint, has a sustainable operating model and contributes socially and economically to the community at large.
FarmedHere might be the poster boy for such a business.
The two-year-old startup grows salad greens, herbs and fish in a multi-stack, vertical agriculture setup, using aquaponic and aeroponic cultivation methods in an abandoned industrial warehouse about seven miles from downtown Chicago.
John Davis, owner and CEO of Carlsbad Aquafarm in California, believes that his business model will not only save the planet’s oceans, but that it will also provide future generations with the opportunity to enjoy fresh, delicious shellfish at a time when wild-caught shellfish from local waters is degraded by pollution and their numbers decimated by over-fishing.
For 20 years now, Carlsbad Aquafarm has raised mussels, clams, oysters and brine shrimp in a modest warehouse facility tucked up to the shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon in North County San Diego. Jet skiers and water sports enthusiasts are within shouting distance of the quiet shellfish nursery. Davis leases his six-acre aquafarm from San Diego Gas and Electric, owner of the Encina Power Plant, and their relationship is symbiotic.
Former Dorm Room Fish Farmer Scales; Barramundi Becomes Star of Worldwide Sustainable Aquaculture OperationSeptember 18, 2012 | Noelle Swan
Josh Goldman started raising fish in his dorm room in 1983. Today, his company Australis Aquaculture, LLC, which is headquartered in a small town in Western Massachusetts, operates one of the world’s largest indoor fish farming facilities as well as several offshore fish farms in Vietnam. The star of his operation is the little known (at least around the United States) Barramundi fish.
Lates calcarifer, also known as the Barramundi or the Asian seabass, hails from the Indo-West Pacific region and Goldman thinks it is going to blow tilapia and farm-raised salmon right out of the water.
Seafood and produce grown indoors without the benefit of soil or open water may seem like the stuff of 1960’s sci-fi films, but for Lenoir City, Tennessee company Greater Growth, the future is now.
Established in 2011 after co-owner Joel Townsend left his job as a stockbroker, Greater Growth utilizes aquaponics technology to fuse production of fish and vegetables into a single, indoor enterprise. The technology combines modern aquaculture with hydroponics to create a cyclical system of farming.
Townsend undertook the effort at the urging of his wife Linda. “I viewed myself as retired and my wife did not,” Townsend said in a phone interview. They invested a combination of personal capital and bank loans in the business, breaking ground in March 2011 and kicking off production in December of the same year.
As an investor, there are few things more wretched than seeing a good business plan sullied by the phrase “pending regulatory approval”. Though a handful of investors view regulatory reliant deals as a specialty, most see it as the cause of expensive delays and compromises. For instance, regulation was long cited as a reason for the slow scale up of urban agriculture businesses, at least until entrepreneurs began to make progress in untangling the web of zoning codes in cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago over the past few years. As a consequence, business plans that require novel regulatory approval are typically passed over by investors.
One sustainable aquaculture firm, Long Beach, CA based KZO Sea Farms, has turned this issue to its advantage, viewing its recent regulatory approval to farm shellfish in federal waters as a substantial barrier to entry against potential competitors.
Aquaponics Skeptic Turned Believer Hopes to Bring Growing Method to Homes and Urban Areas Across AmericaAugust 1, 2012 | Melinda Clark
In an emerging field like aquaponics, there are few who can call themselves experts. Sylvia Bernstein is one who can. In addition to authoring Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together, which has been in Amazon’s top ten gardening books since it came out in October, she is the founder and current vice chairman of the Aquaponics Association and the president and founder of The Aquaponic Source. The Aquaponic Source is a resource for everything aquaponics, from systems and supplies to information, tips, fish and an online community.
The onset of the economic downturn may have proven to be a blessing in disguise for one of Denver, Colorado’s poorest inner city neighborhoods. Like so many other accomplished professionals, JD Sawyer was laid off from his job as the Director of Operations for Johnson & Wales University Denver campus in 2009. With extra time on his hands and a desire to teach his three children sustainable farming techniques, JD read an article in the local newspaper about a low income neighborhood in the middle of Denver where people had very limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables – a right JD believes everyone should have.
“The article made me realize I had an opportunity to help teach people how to take charge of their own food production,” said JD Sawyer. “I realized we had the opportunity to grow food in our backyard where people needed it most.”
When married couple Susanne Friend and Tim Mann first started Friendly Aquaponics, a commercial aquaponics farm and training facility, on the beautiful big island of Hawaii, they weren’t really thinking about providing for their family, much less saving the world.
“What started out very simply as the desire to make a good living by serving someone other than the very wealthy clients we had as a design firm has slowly turned into a crusade,” Friend said.
The company will soon reach its five year milestone, and Friend now feels like they are on a mission – a mission she did not fully understand at the beginning – to empower people to meet their own food needs at the lowest cost possible.
Ejnar Knudsen is one of the better known hedge fund managers in the sustainable agriculture space; he was investing in the sector as far back as the late 1990s, when he led Rabobank’s investments into the early wave of food and agriculture internet sites such as farms.com, a collection of agriculture information sites, and eHarvest.com, a news provider.
Knudsen is a long way from the stereotype of a money-hungry MBA-grad hedge fund manager; he describes himself as a “flexitarian” and is absorbed with finding better ways of utilizing fish oil and nuts to provide health benefits after weaning himself off cholesterol drugs thanks to a nut-rich diet. Until recently, he was one of the portfolio managers at 12-year old San Francisco-based hedge fund Passport Capital. A few weeks back he spoke about his interest in alternative proteins at a recent agriculture investing conference.
Efraim Bason, founder and Chairman of the Board of Local Ocean, a sustainable aquaculture company that has built and operates the world’s first commercial zero-discharge 100% recirculating aquaculture system, is no stranger to business. He owns a diverse portfolio of businesses ranging from a health and beauty products distributor to a real estate company. Now the self-described fisherman with a deep passion for the ocean is adding aquaculture to his repertoire.
Bason first learned that it was possible to farm saltwater fish in an aquaculture system about five years ago, when he moved back to Israel after living in the U.S. He was fascinated by two small aquaculture tanks at the University of Israel. Says Bason, “It was amazing, and I said if this could work, it could change the world. It can change the industry, it can save the ocean, and it can help people, with new jobs, green jobs.”