Josh Rittenberg, Ben-Yam Barshi, and Jared Kasner needed capital to fund the production of their modular home aquaponics system, the Aqualibrium Garden. They had created a prototype, but the industrial molds were very expensive. So the trio turned to Kickstarter, launching a campaign for 30 days in fall 2013.
“It’s really a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” Rittenberg says of the Kickstarter campaign, calling the experience amazing but also harrowing.
“We were all round the clock answering emails.” Because Kickstarter has an international audience, they would get the emails in the middle of the night from countries like French Polynesia, and they had to be sure to answer every email.
Growing produce year-round in northwest Montana may sound complicated, but the owner of Aquaponics North, Mark Winchel, is keeping it simple.
Before turning to aquaponics, Winchel ran a horticultural business for 23 years and has learned that one of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur could make is trying to grow too fast, too soon—putting the cart before the horse, as he says.
“We know better now,” says Winchel. “We’re just doing this one step at a time. That goes all the way down our business plan, from what we’re going to grow and how to set our systems up; just very simple, as few steps as possible.”
Jack Waite, founder of Agua Dulce Farm in Austin, Texas, is truly is a jack-of-all-trades.
By combining his varied background in accounting, engineering, botany and nonprofit management, he has realized his dream of running an aquaponics farm. In recent weeks, this interesting startup reached full operational capacity. Along the way, the farm’s journey has been tested with challenges and sprinkled with luck.
After looking everywhere inside Austin’s city limits for a potential facility, Waite was fortunate enough to find a friend who had a friend who had an unused three-acre farm in the city limits. The owner wanted to contribute to the sustainable ag movement but wasn’t able to do it personally. Waite entered into a very reasonable 30-year lease and began turning the land into a viable aquaponics farm.
Chicagoan Arash Amini believes in environmental and agricultural sustainability, civic responsibility and economic development. Through aquaponics, he has brought all three of these components together.
In college at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Amini earned a physics degree in 2010, he became enthralled with environmental science and environmental engineering. After graduating, he and some friends started a next-generation agriculture company, 312 Aquaponics. But his vision kept evolving, and in 2013 he founded FarmTower Co. in order to deliver affordable aquaponics systems to the public.
In 2010, Dave Roeser sold his two businesses, leaving him with an empty warehouse in suburban St. Paul, Minnesota. Along with his wife and son, he created Garden Fresh Farms, transforming his building into a profitable and innovative aquaponic operation.
The company’s indoor farm produces rainbow trout, tilapia, herbs, and greens for its own CSA as well as area colleges, corporate dining facilities, restaurants, and grocery stores. Roeser has also begun to market his patented equipment and agricultural techniques to growers as far away as Japan and Siberia.
As perhaps much does in Minnesota in the wintertime, the aquaponics start-up Urban Organics began with ice.
Pond ice, that is.
That’s because Fred Haberman, a public relations expert, dedicated social entrepreneur, and founder of The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships got to talking with his “ice man,” David Haider.
It came to light that the two had a common dream: to bring farms to the Twin Cities’ food deserts.
Beginning an aquaponics education and consulting business in the arid climate that is Arizona is not for everyone. It requires experience in engineering, science, botany and business, not to mention decades of research into aquaculture.
Fortunately, George B. Brooks, Jr., Ph.D. and James T. Hicks, founders of RighTrac Inc., a Phoenix based aquaponic-consulting firm offering a comprehensive sustainability curriculum for all educational levels, have that experience.
RighTrac Inc. offers educational, nonprofit and civic organizations the information necessary to educate people on the future of America’s water use, sustainable farming and food equality through the teaching of aquaculture. RighTrac Inc. is a for-profit company that charges a fee for its services, and is currently involved in a number of aquaponics-based projects around the Phoenix region and in developing curriculum for schools.
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.