“Water is the new gold.”
That’s what Gavin and Marshea Vitt told me when I visited their warehouse…
Wait! Stop, you say. Warehouse? I thought you said this was a farm!
It is a farm.
Daily Harvest Aquaponics is a rare bird. It’s an aquaponic farm inside of a warehouse.
Tilapia will tell you all about it.
An aquaponic system circulates water from fish to plants and back again. The fish make the water nutritious for the plants and the plants make the water clean for the fish. And it uses 10% of the water needed for land farming!
Like this! (The green things at the bottom aren’t cucumbers. They’re bacteria added to change the nitrites to nitrates.)
I was struck by how clean this system is. The Daily Harvest system filters out all the fish poop before sending the water to the plants.
This is a lot cleaner than my chicken coop to compost system.
“So how did you find yourself in the world of aquaponic farming?”, I asked them.
“My first exposure to aquaponics was in an in-flight magazine on an airplane about two years ago,” responded Gavin.
That’s not the answer I expected! Both Gavin’s and Marshea’s families have their roots in agriculture, but I guess in these high-tech days new ideas come from places our ancestors never even knew would exist!
For example, none of our great-grandmothers would recognize these high-tech, full-spectrum color grow lights.
Gavin remembered the aquaponics article when his parents were trying to sell a warehouse during the real estate downturn. It was a perfect fit! Most aquaponics systems are set up in greenhouses, but he knew it could work in a warehouse. They took classes, hired consultants who knew how to set up a successful warehouse system and ordered equipment!
It was a lot of equipment and, like all business investments, something of an act of faith in its potential for success. “We believe in this and we’re committed,” says Gavin.
“The system was delivered on April Fools Day of 2014,” Marshea quipped. She quit her corporate job to work on it with Gavin and his parents.
“It’s very, very different and it’s enabled me to do some things I really wanted to do,” she said of being part of the family business. “I’ve been able to balance work and life much more easily. Not to mention, our kids eat so well!”
They harvest vegetables every day.
The whole system is pretty fascinating. It’s not certified organic, but the fish keep these farmers on a careful, bio-secure path. The fish are adamant that they not add anything to the system that kills fish. That means using natural pest control, like introducing ladybugs to control aphids.
The plant room has a system too. Each plant starts in the plant nursery.
I tried to take a picture of the fish nursery, but the fish were too small.
I did get pictures of the friendly tilapia. Unlike the standoffish striped bass, tilapia swim up to the window to visit when they see people.
You can sign up for a tour (and more thorough explanation of how the system works) on Daily Harvest’s website. Don’t just stop by, though. These farmers work just as hard as land farmers and can’t be available spontaneously.
Want to help Gavin, Marshea and the friendly fish be successful? Ask your favorite restaurants where they are getting their greens and if it’s not a local source, suggest they give Daily Harvest Aquaponics a call!
©Hungry Chicken Homestead 2015
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