Starting in 2013, a group of employees from the Arc of Meriden-Wallingford began integrating aquaponics as an innovative community program. They saw the potential of growing food for the local community. In addition, they could see aquaponics empowering individuals with developmental disabilities through engaging job training and personal skill building.
After creating a plan and doing the necessary research, the group was able to get a donation from a person close to the organization to construct a small greenhouse on the side of their building. They went to work creating a 4’ x 12’ media bed and attaching it to two 300 gallon fish tanks. In addition to the media beds, one of the staff members was able to build vertical NFT (Nutrient Film technique) channels that went up against the windows of the greenhouse.
Governor Malloy visited the Arc’s aquaponics program when it initially launched back in 2013. “This…I think is an innovation that might be very good for this organization and others.” Malloy said following a tour of the greenhouse and a walk through the ARC building. “I wanted to celebrate their success. Initially on an experimental basis but hopeful that perhaps this can spread,” he said of his visit.
The Arc of Meriden-Wallingford looked to use the aquaponics program as a way to use the produce in their Eatery, a commercial kitchen they have on site, which is open to the public Monday through Friday. You can actually check out their menu here.
Over the course of 2013-2015, the Arc’s aquaponics system expanded into some of their unused warehouse space. Inside the warehouse they set up an additional 300 sqft of growing space using another 300 gallon fish tank and media beds. The indoor system allowed the Arc to produce more lettuce and basil, favorites of locals who were buying their produce. However, in order for the plants to grow in their warehouse they needed to provide lights.
They were using 1000 watt high pressure sodium lights to provide the necessary lighting for the plants to grow. These are not the most energy efficient lights for indoor use. However, at the time the cost was right. They were generously donated by local community members. In fact one of Trifecta’s partners donated lights before his time with us.
As the program continues to grow the Arc is beginning to better understand what it means to become a food producer in their community. While the program had many successes, there were also times that it faced the same challenges. The sort that farmers of all walks face.
Whether it be scaling your farm, having customers ready to buy when you harvest, or controlling pest and disease, these are challenges every farmer faces. The Arc also endured some unique challenges as an urban farm employing developmentally disabled individuals, and employee turnover left the farm without some of its most ardent supporters for a time.
In June 2015, Trifecta began working with the Arc to address these challenges. We updated their aquaponics program to be more efficient, productive, and impactful. Trifecta was able to leverage all the hard work and dedication that the Arc put in on the aquaponics program to make the system more efficient and productive.
Over the course of just a few months, all of the Arc’s systems were shut down. We reconfigured them using Trifecta’s extensive knowledge to increase production and efficiency while reducing their overhead.
How’d we do it? To learn more about Trifecta’s work with the Arc of Meriden-Wallingford click here. If you’d like to donate to the aquaponics program at the Arc to keep this programming alive click here.