Changing the Food System

Recently someone asked me what our company does.  I briefly explained what aquaponics is and that we help people get started and be successful in aquaponics so they can supply fresh fish and vegetables to their family, community or in a profitable farming venture. We achieve this by supplying complete Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems®, project planning, training and long-term technical support  through the Nelson and Pade Grower Program.

In a nutshell, that’s it.  But when I think about the overall effort that John, our Team and I make every day, a simpler and maybe better answer is:

We are changing the food system.

There are many issues with the food system that include everything from a lack of clean water, the cost and damage related to long distance transportation of food to an abundance of food contamination issues and the over-growing presence of food deserts.  There is a great deal written about these problems, but not a lot of solutions presented.  We have one, and I am happy to say that it has the potential to change the food system.

What do I mean by: Changing the food system?
It is about changing how, when and where we grow food.

It is about changing how we grow food.

Historically, food has been grown in the soil. Terrestrial plants evolved with their roots in the soil and the stalks and leaves exposed to surrounding climatic conditions.

Plants need the nutrients and beneficial organisms that are in the soil. The soil itself is just a holder of those nutrients and organisms. In aquaponics, the nutrients and beneficial microbes live in water rather than the soil. Essentially, an aquaponic system is just like an organic garden, but without the dirt.  This allows the plants and beneficial microbes to thrive while eliminating the habitat of harmful pests and diseases.

As our population has grown, traditional farming moved from small farms, supporting a family and a community to large industrialized farms that ship food around the world.

The method of growing food crops that we use combines aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture.  Aquaponics is a soilless, recirculating method of farming that produces both fish and vegetables, all from one very efficient infrastructure, using less water and space than traditional farming.

Controlled Environment Agriculture eliminates issues with weather, such as rain, snow, ice, wind and temperatures that are either too cold or too hot.  When using our methods, you continuously produce food 365 days per year.

The output from our aquaponic systems is both fresh vegetables and fish which are grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones.  The fertilizer for the plants is naturally generated as beneficial microbes convert fish waste into the elements the plants need.  There is a long list of benefits that accompany this method of growing food.  Our Clear Flow Aquaponic Systems® are highly efficient and produce a great deal of high quality, nutritious vegetables and fish in a relatively small space.

Aquaponics is more efficient than farming in the soil.  It uses less water and less land, it can be done anywhere and it can produce food all year long.

It is about changing when we grow food.

The controlled environment culture eliminates issues with weather, such as rain, snow, ice, wind and temperatures that are either too cold or too hot.  When using our systems, you continuously produce food.  This means you can grow food all year long, anywhere.

Just think about this advantage over outdoor soil farming.  The result is fresh food, 365 days a year. Our controlled environment structures provide the ideal climate every day. Our plants are never stressed so growth is faster and more consistent than outdoors.  Plus, we employ energy efficient practices and renewable fuels, reducing our dependence on natural gas and electricity, making our efforts even more sustainable.

In our aquaponic systems, we can harvest vegetables every day.  Each time we harvest, we then seed and transplant the same number of plants, keeping the system in full and continuous production and never having to worry about the changing of the seasons or weather disruptions.

It is about changing where we grow food.

In aquaponics, we don’t need a lot of land or water to grow a great deal of food.  And, we don’t need traditional farm fields, soil, tractors or irrigations systems. An aquaponic farm of just ½ acre can produce 300,000 heads of lettuce and 30,000 lbs.of fresh fish every year.  That is roughly 10 times more than a traditional farm.

Using this technology, we can grow food in cities, in the suburbs, in rural areas, in developing nations, in neighborhoods, in schools, in greenhouses, in warehouses, in basements…literally anywhere. Most commercial aquaponic farms are located in or near an urban or suburban area, providing fresh local food to grocery stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals and direct to the consumer at farm markets and through CSA (community supported agriculture) programs.

We can, we are.

The great thing is, we can do this.  We can change the food system.

The even better part is, we already are.  We have developed the systems, methods and technology to a level that aquaponics is both economically and financially sustainable.

For the past 20 years, we have worked very hard to take the science of aquaponics and build it into a functional and profitable industry, all while maintaining a social entrepreneurship mentality and working to maintain the integrity and science behind aquaponics.  But, when you look at the benefits and the applications of aquaponics, it sometimes seems like the growth is just not fast enough.  There are more people to feed, bigger commercial ventures to build and more demand for information on aquaponics.

How do we keep the pendulum of our growing industry continuing to swing toward more and more aquaponic food production systems?  We need to change the paradigm, the mindset about what agriculture is and how, when and where we grow food.

We work diligently to teach regulators that aquaponics is a safe and beneficial method of food production.  We work with schools, teachers and students to create enhanced, hands-on learning activities centered on aquaponics and we work with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in offering aquaponics courses from an accredited University.

We teach and educate the general public about this method of growing food and encourage them to seek out aquaponic farms to buy fresh, local, quality foods.

And we work with entrepreneurs to help them establish their commercial aquaponics ventures.

We are seeing a change as more and more people are discovering aquaponic food production, as more and more consumers are becoming aware of the challenges in our food system, as more people are demanding local food.

But, the global food system is a behemoth and one that is not easily altered. If you believe aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture can help to feed people while growing food in a sustainable manner, tell someone, tell everyone.  If you are still unsure, learn more, read more, go see an aquaponic farm, take a class or set up an aquaponic system, and you will see the potential impact that this technology has to offer.

Yes, we are changing the food system, one mind at a time.