factory farming: the plants are fed by fish poo alone
December 28, 2015 11:42 PM   Subscribe

GrowUp: the future of food - "The new concept of commercial aquaponics, argue Hofman and Webster, has a much-reduced environmental impact. Companion farming fish and crops dates back to the Aztecs, but it took until the 2010s, in Chicago, to move it indoors at any scale. In the UK, only eco-smallholdings have so far attempted it, and the only European aquaponics farms of note use purpose-built greenhouses. GrowUp's model, by contrast, is to fit out empty urban buildings, use no chemicals, employ LED lights, source 100 per cent renewable energy and, crucially, be based within five miles of its customer base in a dense urban area."
posted by kliuless (21 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Doesn't have to be indoor either. My old boss started his own business that basically entails making produce in suburban areas including low maintenance aquaponics systems. You don't have to use LEDs either. Indoor growers are starting to use solar tubes and even fibre optics to get free sunlight into indoor areas.
posted by Talez at 12:04 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the Chinese (from the 5th century BC) were probably there before even the Aztecs when it came to developing balanced aquaculture systems - and they have had the ideas in continual use since then. It is strange how important innovations can hide right out in the open.
posted by rongorongo at 1:54 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interesting that Hofman and Webster's farm occupies an 800 square metre site - and employs 9 directly. If they take the model of re-using empty buildings, and consider those involved in construction, supply, distribution, etc - then the industry promises to be quite a healthy employer as well as food producer. Since unemployment is usually higher in areas with more empty buildings - that would be a big additional plus.
posted by rongorongo at 2:10 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


GrowUp’s Beckton farm will produce 20,000kg of salad and 4,000kg of fish a year

Organic lettuce sells for about 10% more per pound than tilapia. Coupled with the much higher volume, the salad is the real money maker, by far. The fish is basically just a byproduct of the fertilizer production system.
posted by jedicus at 6:57 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are so many advantages to growing indoors, not least that it will provide valuable data for how to build indoor farms on space stations, the moon (maybe), Mars (maybe) and so on. Putting food close to people, making it more abundant, cheaper and fresher, these are such worthy goals. I hope we see a lot more of this. And not just "micro herbs" but actual vegetables.

I assume the reference to "Chicago" was this place, The Plant.
posted by emjaybee at 6:59 AM on December 29, 2015


There are so many advantages to growing indoors, not least that it will provide valuable data for how to build indoor farms on space stations, the moon (maybe), Mars (maybe) and so on.

Plus, if we keep having weather like this, it might not be so easy to keep growing it outside
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:15 AM on December 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


There are so many advantages to growing indoors

My neighbors thought so, but the local police didn't agree. Raising fish would have been a lot more boring, but probably a better long term plan for them and they might have stayed out of jail long enough to harvest a crop.

the plants are fed by fish poo alone

In a lot of fish farm set ups, the fish are fed on human poo, so there is a nice circularity to the whole endeavor when done right.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:49 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, which do we go with:

MetaFolter: there is a nice circularity to the whole endeavor when done right

or

MetaFilter: the fish are fed on human poo?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:34 AM on December 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now get this!
We feed the rats to the cats and the cats to the rats
And get the catskins for nothing
posted by Dip Flash at 8:56 AM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Visitors are asked to sign declarations that they carry no germs or foreign soils before entering

Please check your biome at the door.
posted by beagle at 9:14 AM on December 29, 2015


I LOVE these guys. The Chicago people tried to buy an abandoned school from us downstate and I was the only person on the school board who thought this was a COMPLETELY AWESOME use of an old school. They were going to have big indoor aquaponics farms in a bunch of it; convert a lot of the parking lot and playing fields to outdoor farms; keep some of the classrooms and offices intact for office space both for themselves and to lease to local community groups and start-ups for office space, and to community rec programs for, like, yoga classes; and convert the cafeteria (which already has a commercial kitchen) into a restaurant/community space where they could host events and serve food they'd grown. I thought it was the BEST use of a big old school building I'd ever heard, but the neighbors went absolutely berserk and it didn't go through because they couldn't get the zoning change.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


The first time I heard of this it was converting an in-ground swimming pool into a aquaponic garden
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:33 AM on December 29, 2015


Immortan Joe had a pretty nice setup IIRC.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:53 AM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hm. Lots of food politics being thrown around comparing tilapia and salmon.
When I see Fox News and Dr. Weil promoting sides of an argument I find the whole conversation less likely to be credible.

Perhaps the farmers should be growing phytoplankton instead of lettuce?
posted by hank at 11:09 AM on December 29, 2015


To add to embayjee's comment. I used to volunteer at the Plant regularly. They have an integrated aquaponics/fishfarm setup where the fish poo feeds the veggies. They also act as an incubator for businesses in the space (a mushroom farm, a shrimp farm, a kombucha place, a microbrewery, a cheesemonger's storage place etc.).

It helps that the space they occupy is an abandoned pork processing plant so the whole place already has food grade bricks etc. They are slowly converting the whole place to be energy self sufficient too; by installing a biogas generator and using the scraps from both their own urban farm and the rotting produce from nearby wholesale grocers etc.

They have a regular urban farm too where they grow vegetables etc. I stopped volunteering there because all they wanted me for was grunt labor. Picking the veggies and cooking for the volunteers. I wanted to get them interested in growing saltwater fishes in fresh water that I read about and wanted to pursue. I tried to get them interested, but they had other plans. So, I bailed. But it is a fascinating place and the people who run it are very passionate about it. If you are in the area and want to visit they have a tour on Weekends.

Oh well. I tried. I really thought that the plan to grow saltwater fishes in freshwater would be a good idea, especially for a place like Chicago that has a voracious appetite for seafood but is so far from the coasts. But they powers that be were not so keen on it. Cest la vie.
posted by indianbadger1 at 1:39 PM on December 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


“Making Green by Growing Greens…with Fish,” Kate Repantis, Slice of MIT, 02 December 2014
Every Thursday, the team at Grove Labs eats the fruits of their labor. They call it a Grove-grown lunch.

“From some of our prototypes, we’ve harvested a huge bowl of salad for our weekly team meetings,” said co-founder and CEO Gabe Blanchet ’13 of his company’s indoor aquaponic gardens, which grow fruits and vegetables and raise fish.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:22 PM on December 29, 2015


If you are in Minneapolis, Gandhi Mahal (a Bangladeshi restaurant) has an aquaponics facility in the basement where they grow fish and veggies that they serve upstairs. They'll give you a tour if you ask. And it's partially powered by solar panels on the roof.

There's also a company called Urban Organics that's turning two gigantic old breweries (we're talking multi-acre buildings) into aquaponics facilities.
posted by miyabo at 4:47 PM on December 29, 2015


I hope we see a lot more of this. And not just "micro herbs" but actual vegetables.

Not likely - the nutrient load requirement for "actual vegetables" is so high that fish poop alone cannot sustain them. Usually. This is why aquaponic installations usually specialize in salad greens, as leafy greens require way less input than, say, tomatoes or root vegetables or whatever.

Also, it's worth pointing out that "micro greens" are your best bet if you want to maximize your net receipts per square unit area. In some markets, microgreens will even net you more per square foot than weed.

(I read up on this when I was obsessed with importing red-claw crayfish and starting an aquaponic taco stand. My small-biz advisor just told me "your job is to explain to me why your idea is better than just growing weed." I was never able to convince her.)
posted by BrunoLatourFanclub at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


In a lot of fish farm set ups, the fish are fed on human poo, so there is a nice circularity to the whole endeavor when done right.

Too many contaminants in human poo. All sorts of medicine by-products, especially: the waste excreta of mood meds, psych meds, hormone meds, sleep meds, antibiotics, etc. And all the effluent of a processed food lifestyle: the preservatives, colours, flavours, growth hormones, yet more antibiotics. Human poo is not good poo.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:36 PM on December 29, 2015


In some markets, microgreens will even net you more per square foot than weed.
Fascinating! And that does beg the question of whether marijuana aquaponics might be a thing.
Yup!
- It sounds like the fish generated by the system could be served to cure the munchies generated by the weed; alternately it is possible to grow decorative fish with really wild colours. Man.
posted by rongorongo at 10:39 PM on December 29, 2015


I assume the reference to "Chicago" was this place, The Plant.

The first article's Chicago reference is probably for FarmedHere in suburban Bedford Park. This 2013 Chicagoist article has more on them. Earlier this month a Chicago Tribune story profiled Urban Till, a newer fish-less hydroponic operation that's in the city proper.
posted by kgander at 5:41 AM on December 30, 2015


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