Not many restaurateurs would commit to building their own aquaponics system in the basement of their restaurant. But Anton Kotar, owner of Anton’s Taproom in Kansas City, Mo., had experience raising tropical fish and tending plants in his home so he knew he could make the sustainable, aquaponic-restaurant concept work.
Anton’s Taproom opened in October 2012, and started serving food on November 1. And Kotar worked on the space, renovating the historic building and constructing fish tanks, 14 months before opening. Since opening, the restaurant has seen a lot of success, and the restaurant’s aquaponic and vertical farm system are running swimmingly.
Five years ago Mark Rhine and his business partner Marlo Ibanez, co-owners of Rhibafarms, had a broadband company in Phoenix, Arizona. They fielded a $225,000 a month payroll, traveled constantly and ate junk food only as an afterthought. Then they cashed in their company, bought a farm – Rhibafarms – and saw their health turn 180 degrees.
“We both lost a ton of weight, lowered our blood pressure and cholesterol and stopped taking medication,” Rhine said. “All because we started eating the organic food we grow. So all we want to grow now is very nutrient-dense food.”
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.”
Traveling from farm to market has never been a shorter trip than it is for the produce grown by Green Sky Growers, a rooftop aquaponic farm, in Winter Gardens, Fla. The farm’s main client is a restaurateur housed in the same building. Delivering fresh produce is a mere one-minute commute in an elevator.
The unique aquaponic operation arose through the personal vision of Bert Roper, an aquaculture expert from Winter Gardens, Fla., whose ancestors settled the area more than a century ago. Although Roper passed away in late 2012, his legacy lives on. It’s visible in the lush, edible greenery that draws nutrients from a rooftop pond atop a multi-rise, 3,000 sq. ft. warehouse.
When Gina Cavaliero and Tonya Penick watched their contracting firm collapse, they had a personal and professional epiphany that would change the course of their lives and work. “It was just awful. We were laying off a lot of people. I was spending sleepless nights trying to find a recession-proof business,” says Cavaliero. In 2008, as their business was failing, the two business partners were introduced to aquaponics by Morning Star Fisherman, a non-profit organization with a mission to use aquaponics as a means to relieve world hunger. “We were amazed and enthralled by it,” she says.
At the same time, the healthy food movement was gaining more momentum, and the business partners were eager to jump on board. “It all culminated at the same time,” she explains.
A few years ago, Jeni and Doug Blackburn were looking for a new business venture to embark upon following Doug’s retirement. After perusing several different business ideas, Doug began researching greenhouses, hydroponics and aquaponics. Jeni explains that as the couple dug deeper into aquaponics, they realized that they had found their business.
“We really liked the idea. It’s a sustainable way of doing farming,” says Jeni, co-owner and farmer at Fresh Harvest Farm, in Richwood, Ohio. “We are re-circulating water, not adding chemicals, and the fish eating and breathing excrete ammonia, which is a natural chemical. The good bacteria creates wonderful nutrition for our plants naturally.”
What does a high-tech guy do when he becomes tired of the daily grind in the manufacturing industry? If he is a food lover, he opens a greenhouse to supply area restaurants with fine greens and revels in all-things food.
Darrell Joseph, a self-proclaimed foodie, did just that. After working more than 20 years in manufacturing, he thought he would try his hand at something else. “I am heavy into food and fine dining,” says Joseph. “I wanted to do something with food. I wanted to interact with chefs, as well as people who enjoy food and fine dining.”
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.
Despite Economic Hurdles and Learning Curve, Family’s Hydroponic / Aquaponic Enterprise Turns ProfitAugust 21, 2012 | Missy Smith
For Brenda Anderson and her family, growing food is just as much about feeding and empowering their local community as it is about making a living. About 11 years ago, the family set out to start farming at the request of Anderson’s son Joshua. So, Anderson purchased a 22-acre ranch in Houston, Texas, and settled in with her family. And, about four years ago, the family—consisting of Anderson’s fiancé Jeff Koch, her sister and her two nieces—started VegOut! Farms, a hydroponic and aquaponic farm that grows organic and traditional produce for its local community.
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.
Ed Osmun of E&T Farms in Barnstable, Massachusetts has been chewing on the idea of growing food in a controlled environment for nearly 40 years. Seven years ago, he put it into practice when he and his wife scaled back their beekeeping operation to build an aquaponic farm, a closed-loop farming system linking hydroponically grown vegetables and fish tanks of ornamental koi. In addition to the aquaponic farm, E&T Farms still maintains 200 beehives, one greenhouse that grows root vegetables through the winter, and some outdoor gardens with a variety of gourds. They sell honey, produce, and bags of mixed greens at the farm to five local stores, and at several area farmers markets. The koi is sold to area water-garden shops.
With world population expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050, there are concerns about whether there will be enough fresh food to feed them all. Some say aquaponics is the solution.
The method combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (growing vegetables in water and nutrients, without soil) to produce pesticide-free food while using substantially less water compared to conventional farming methods. That creates the potential for maximizing food production in developing countries that have less water and healthy soil to work with, according to the leaders of Dallas-based Premier Organic Farms Corporation which plans to do just that through its subsidiary ECO Fresh Solutions.