Commercial Aquaponics System is 100% organic
Aquaponics has become a hot topic in the recent past, and several new ventures have become active companies providing fresh produce to their local markets. A commercial aquaponics system, even on a full commercial scale would be hard pressed to match the quantity of food trucked in from corporate farms growing genetically modified vegetables found in a standard grocery store. Rather, the output, although smaller, will be much healthier and cater to those who demand completely organic production methods grown locally.
Lenoir City, in Tennessee is one of the first start-ups that has incorporated the concepts of hydroponics to grow vegetables and aquaculture to grow food fish into the same symbiotic system. The owner of Greater Growth Joel Townsend notes:
In this highly controlled environment, rows of lettuce, greens, bok choi and herbs are suspended in a 32-foot by 100-foot insulated concrete tank through which flows a steady supply of the water and nutrients the plants need for life. The nutrients come courtesy of bright blue tanks of tilapia fish at the other end of the greenhouse, part of a symbiotic horticultural process that is 100 percent organic.
The produce, and soon even the grown out tilapia, will be sold at local markets. The concept of aquaponics is a powerful one where the wastes of one part – the fish – are used to feed and grow the produce. At the same time, plants are removing the toxins the fish produce and making the water safe for them to grow in. One of my favorite quotes about the power of this symbiotic relationship is that:
“Because we have fish and plants together it keeps us entirely honest,” Townsend says. “There’s nothing harmful to humans that I could put in here and not kill my fish.”
Energy Efficiency built into this Commercial Aquaponics system
This a powerful prototype for urban farming for the future. It is not your standard greenhouse that has been converted into a new system for testing. It was built from the ground up, with a price tag of over 1.5 million, as an aquaponics installation. From the outset it was carefully planned to reduce as much as possible its impact on the environment. Passive power is generated from arrays of solar panels and a 6000 gallon rainwater reservoir minimizes the need for both outside power and water for the operation. Pumps are minimized by using gravity wherever possible. Triple pane polycarbonate covers the greenhouse panel area. There is also a state of the art heating system for maximum efficiency as well.
All in all, it would seem this commercial aquaponics system can show others the way of the future for those who want to provide the highest quality organic foods, both totally organic produce and fish to their local market. The use of solar power generation reduces the costs and serving a local market reduces the oil required for shipping to market. Looks like a winner to me, and one that will pay off the investment over time in the energy and resource savings that other forms of farming could never achieve.