Many of Detroit’s urban agriculture ventures have a down-on-the-farm feel to them, but not the CDC Farm & Fishery. If anything, with its tubes and tanks, the business seems downright futuristic. You see, the Farm & Fishery is among the first aquaponic operations to set up in Detroit following the passage of an urban agriculture ordinance last year.
Aquaponic is a term that describes enterprises where aquatic creatures are raised and their wastewater is recirculated to help grow plants that in turn filter it for reuse. Located in a two-level building in the North Central Woodward area of the city, the grow station is now raising tilapia fish and cultivating herbs and microgreens to sell to area businesses.
Presenting subjects ranging from window farming to food security and lighting systems, the Indoor Agriculture Conference features two full days of education on controlled environment technologies, aero/hydro/aquaponic best practices and business models, automated nutrient systems, future trends, and financing options …
Agriculture is an ecosystem and needs to be treated as such.
That was the conclusion reached by business partners and former college roommates Tyler Gaudet and Jackson McLeod, who grow greens and raise fish at Fluid Farms.
Fluid Farms grows in a 5,000-square foot aquaponics greenhouse in North Yarmouth, Maine. The farm sells a variety of greens to area restaurants, and will sell their first fish (tilapia) this year.
The pair avoids the “sustainability” moniker, due to their belief that no form of production agriculture is 100 percent sustainable. Instead, they strive for a system that is not strictly dependent on inputs and outputs.
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.