Monday, December 12, 2011

The Rise of Urban Aquaponics: Farm Fresh Fish in Wisconsin

This post was inspired by research done by HGP Sports Editor, Greg Gee. The subject is Urban Farming, in particular, Urban Aquaponics or fresh water fish farms. It provides instructional information of how one can have a mini recycling home eco-system that raises perch or tilapia fish.

In cities, such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland etc, there are miles and miles of urban blight, abandoned lots, unused and antiquated factory buildings that are untapped resources for the exploration of urban farming.

Consistent with the HGP philosophy of self-empowerment, I think this is opportunity that should be closely reviewed. So, check it out the story and videos:

Entrepreneurs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are working to offset ecological disaster and build up a new model for food production all in one setting. Sweet Water Organics is an urban aquaponics company that raises fish (perch and tilapia) and leafy greens in an old factory. Perch was a staple for the Great Lakes region before an invasive species (zebra mussel) devastated their population. While still small, Sweet Water has already sold thousands of fish and is looking to make major expansions in the next two years. Their fledgling success suggests the potential for aquaponics technology to revolutionize underused industrial space and provide sustainable protein to urban centers. Long term health and ecological problems for the endeavor are still poorly understood, however. Check out a look at Sweet Water Organics from a local Milwaukee show in the videos after the break.

We see a lot of different technologies here at the Hub, but this is really rare – a factory that grows food! That’s essentially what the Sweet Water Organics venture into aquaponics has created. Water goes into the abandoned factory and fish and vegetables come out. Imagine replicating that system on a large scale. The industrialized world is full of unused or forsaken urban spaces that could be converted into agricultural spaces that could feed thousands or even millions of people. Sweet Water Organics is a model for how cities could move towards becoming sustainable places to live.

Founders Josh Fraundorf and James Godsil learned their craft in large part from Will Allen, the MacArthur Genius Fellow and leader of Growing Power. Their setup is pretty typical for aquaponics. There are three tiers in the system, two for plants and one for fish. Water pumped to the top makes it through the soil of the first tier of plants. Then it drains into the second tier of plants (greens like watercress), which grow directly in tanks of water. Then the H2O makes it way down to the fish at the bottom. Plant material and water-borne organisms serve to feed the fish. Effluence from the fish is collected, and along with plant material compost, is used to fertilize the plants. Worms process the compost to make it ready for the water based plants.

Aquaponics technology is cool because it’s fairly simple. The vegetables and animals live in symbiosis – fish waste fertilizes the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. Except for small losses to evaporation, the water in the system is self-contained. It’s a very efficient setup – all your resources either stay in the warehouse or are carried out as plants and fish. You can see the entire operation in action in the following two clips from Wisconsin Foodie. Because it’s a local show, the host explores Sweet Water Organics at a relaxed pace. If you enjoy that great, if not, you won’t miss much if you skip around. source

For more information regarding urban farming, follow these links:

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