This article was originally published February 26, 2015 by Spencer Curry CEO of Trifecta Ecosystems formerly Fresh Farm Aquaponics.
Remember your college diet? Late night pizzas washed down with cheap beer and topped off with some even later night snacks. Looking back, I don’t know how I survived.. is there any protein or vitamins in barbeque potato chips and chex mix? Frankly, I think the only reason it worked out is because I was so blissfully ignorant to foods affect on health.
My disconnect with food goes back all the way to my childhood. I ate school lunches and all the stuff advertised on TV. I grew up across the street from a farm, in a town of farmers and yet had no idea that food came from somewhere other than the grocery store.
Nowadays, things are changing. Not just for myself, but for all of us. We are growing more aware of the quality and the source of our food. Food isn’t just some stuff in a box on a shelf, every piece of fruit, every leaf of lettuce is a miracle. Watching your own food grow before your eyes reveal how methodically beautiful and rewarding the unfolding of nature can be.
For me, this change in mindset really took hold when I first learned about aquaponics. In fact, it was this new relationship with food fostered by my first aquaponics system that really empowered me to go for it and start my aquaponics business.
Have you had a similar outstanding moment? The one where you recognized your primal connection to your food. I think you probably have, otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. Well if I am right and you have the desire for a deeper connection with the food that you eat every day, then I think this message is for you.
Aquaponics, the science/art of growing fish and plants together in a sustainable ecosystem, offers an unparalleled connection to our food. Before we get to that though, a quick breakdown of aquaponics in case you are a little rusty.
Basically, we have fish in one tank. The fish release ammonia through their breath and waste. This ammonia is eaten up by beneficial microorganisms in the system and converted into nitrogen. This is like how we humans have probiotics in our stomachs that help us digest food into usable nutrients. The aquaponics system digests the fish byproduct into usable nutrients for the plants. The nitrogen filled water created by these aquaponic probiotics is then fed to our plants. Our plants devour the delicious nitrogen as a totally natural fertilizer. In doing so, the plants clean the water so we can feed it back to the fish. We get to use the same water over and over again saving tons of water and grow fish and plants at the same time!
So I bet you’re asking yourself, “OK, so how does this aquaponics system change my relationship with my food?
Makes home-grown food easy even for people with busy lives
Full Disclosure: I had no growing experience when I started using aquaponics and neither did my roommate (now business partner). In fact, we’re still learning every day. Regardless, our garden churns out the best looking best tasting greens, herbs and fruits I’ve ever had and I grew up in a town with over 20 local farms.
Maybe the last remnants of an indoor plant are sitting dried out and sad in some corner of your house. Don’t worry, no watering required here. Aquaponic plants are self-watering! All you need to do to take care of your system is feed the fish (you can even get an automatic fish feeder too! With aquaponics, quality produce and fish are yours in just 5 minutes a day.
Regularly having the highest quality, nutritionally-rich food reminds us how good food can really taste
It was unbelievable, that first juicy bite into our aquaponic tomatoes. Normally I dislike tomatoes. I don’t eat them on sandwiches, salads, and I don’t even use ketchup for my fries. However with this tomato, this vibrantly ruby colored tomato, I bit into it like a juicy apple. All of a sudden, tomatoes have flavor again! No more mealy, wet watery red stuff.
A juicy tomato full of vital nutrients and living enzymes, I could taste the difference between living produce and the stuff from the store that has traveled miles upon miles to get there. Farm-to-table has never been closer to home when you can grow dinner 15 feet away from where you cook dinner!
Raising Fish protein in the same area as produce revolutionizes food access
Now this is a true game changer. Gardening is typically a hobby or pastime and the produce you get out of it is a fun bonus. However, rarely is someone able to raise their own high-quality protein. Protein is vital for our health and fish protein is among the healthiest of all protein sources. Healthy fish protein can be raised by anyone now, thanks to aquaponics.
This changes our relationship with food by bringing a sustainable food system to anyone who needs it. Gardening moves from hobby to security factor. Guarantee your food security with an aquaponics garden. You’ll feel the joy of home food security.
Extreme season extension and even year round growing
My farm is here in Connecticut and I’m writing this during the third blizzard in the last week and a half. This is typically hibernation season for the local farmers. Low sunlight, frigid temperatures and 3 feet of snow typically hinder plant growth.
Meanwhile, I can walk through the snowy path towards my own greenhouse. A sea of white on the inside, but as soon as I open the door I am greeted by a verdant sea of living greens. The air in my nose goes from icy to warm and even humid. It feels like spring inside the greenhouse.
Year round and season extension is a vital way to keep local food systems sustainable and helps you get as much live produce as possible.
Mix food with sanctuary and grow your own sacred space
An added bonus of the season extension is that I have my own personal oasis during the frigid months. The temperature is balmy 75-80 degrees during the winter and I like to kick back in there and read while the plants and fish do their thing. During the spring, summer, and fall months the garden represents both the abundance of nature and the possibilities of the future. I find this space to be inspiring and my garden now represents a treasured sacred space in my daily life. It allows me to take a few meditative minutes out of your day to reconnect with nature and your food.
The sound of water trickling, gurgling like a spring brook. The smell of fresh air, rich with oxygen from the plants. Not to mention the air is perfumed by rich herbs and fresh blooming flowers. The effect of an aquaponics garden is stunning and provides a level of comfort and beauty that helps us reconnect with nature and with the way our food is produced. Farming can be beautiful and when you spend some time in your own backyard paradise, you’ll see what it’s like.
Aquaponics works on any scale, from desktop to backyard to commercial size
When I take a few minutes to think back on my journey as a young aquapioneer in a budding industry, one thing really jumps out at me. Since discovering it, aquaponics has fit into my life, no matter my surroundings. I kept a small aquaponics garden on my desk in my cramped Boston college apartment. Then I moved back home to Connecticut where I expanded into a backyard family sized system. Finally, when I started my business we built our largest system yet, what we call our Conscious Community Garden. What I’m getting at here is that there is an aquaponic system for any size location and ambition. Whether you want to bring the joys of fresh food and living things to your city dwelling, augment your grocery bill or even create a whole new income stream, aquaponics is there to help you expand your relationship with your food.
A new wave of entrepreneurs are redistributing farming with the local food network
The family farmer was the real staple that America was built upon. In fact, I think it could be argued that the family farmer is what the entirety of human civilization is built upon, however that’s the topic of a different post. For the last 100 or so years, agriculture has been slowly condensed into a series of mega-farms that provide a bulk of the produce for the nation. As a result, most of the food in my grocery store in Connecticut comes from 3000+ miles away!
This system is receiving more and more flack as consumers like you and I find out about the growing list of issues, such as environmental pollution, health issues, and climate change. What is happening to reverse this unfortunate 100-year test in megalithic farms?
Well, despite shrinking land availability for farming, some states are actually increasing in farmers, including my own home state Connecticut. Organic, and more importantly, Local are now household terms that the conscientious consumer is looking for. As farmers markets and consumer support agriculture (CSA) programs continue to gain traction around the country, the local food network seems to be returning to America.
With the return to local food production and distribution already underway, a whole new wave of food entrepreneurs are coming down the pipeline.That means food production can go from a fun hobby to a self-funding hobby to a lucrative side-business for almost anyone! In fact, that’s literally the path I took to get here today. Let abundance flow through your home and share that abundance with your neighbors! That is what aquaponics promises us with a system in every home, helping to redistribute the production of food across the world.
Aquaponics is a fully capable educational unit.
Aquaponics provides an exciting solution for American STEM and Common Core curriculums. That is because the living example of a model ecosystem teaches just about every scientific realm, from biology to chemistry to physics and more. Our farm has engaged local schools and private groups for aquaponics workshops and ongoing in-class and field-trip days. We’ve even put aquaponics systems with in the classroom for as a cross-cutting multidisciplinary STEM education tool.
Food is quickly shifting from just the box of stuff we get from the supermarket to a primal reconnection with our home and our heritage. Local food is bringing together communities and increasing prosperity and abundance in the homes that practice it. Aquaponics is one of many technologies that are allowing the local food revolution to take place, so that we can return to a more robust and secure local food network, empowered by modern technology and a deepening relationship with our food.