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Thursday, September 11, 2014

11/09/2014: The price of new hydroponics with fish production comes way down

Tony Beran is standing in the kitchen at the Lake Avenue Restaurant in Duluth, Minnesota, with a head of romaine lettuce in one hand and a clump of curly lettuce in the other.

"They're beautiful," he says.

Beran's the executive chef and one thing he likes about these bunches of lettuce is how clean they are. "They're grown aquaponically instead of in dirt," he says. "Which is wonderful in the kitchen. It's less labor for us."
 
Aquaponics - the nutrient cycle

Another thing he likes about this lettuce is that it was grown just up the road. The restaurant features local ingredients and Beran serves locally grown lettuce all year, which is a bit of a trick in a place like Duluth. Last winter, the temperature was below zero 23 days in a row.

But it's always warm in the greenhouse at Victus Farms, where Beran's lettuce came from. It's about an hour's drive from Duluth in a little mining town called Silver Bay.

"These are all our babies," says Mike Mageau, as he shows off his latest lettuce crop. He runs the place, and he's an unlikely looking farmer. He's wearing cargo shorts and a backwards ball cap and he's barefoot. He's an unlikely looking professor, too, but that's his job: professor of geography at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He runs a program in environment and sustainability, and this indoor farm is a research project.

Universities and private businesses across the country are experimenting with aquaponics.


Mageau's right-hand man at Victus is Baylor Radtke, a former student. The two of them pooled their money and on their own they're building a much smaller and simpler fish and vegetable operation in Radtke's yard in Duluth.
 
http://www.marketplace.org/topics/sustainability/how-grow-lettuce-and-fish-indoors-all-year-long
Mike Mageau, a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth, grows lettuce year-round — indoors. In one room of a greenhouse, a tank of fish produces nutrients; waste from the fish then circulates through a second room, fertilizing the lettuce. Mageau holds a shelf of lettuce.

"The whole point of it is to allow people to grow as much as we did in that US$2 million facility in a facility that costs under $100,000," Radtke says.

The cost has come out way under. Radtke and Mageau say the new operation will take only US$20,000 to build because they're doing all the labor. The annual energy costs will be comparable to a single-family house, and they're cutting those even further with solar panels on the roof of the greenhouse.

They figure they'll bring in US$50,000 in the first year, from a building the size of a four-car garage, about 24-by-52 feet. They plan to be completely up and running by this fall.


If it works in northern Minnesota, they say, imagine how well it could work someplace warm.


Read more HERE.

The Aquaculturists
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