Aquaponics Fuel Diversified Oregon Farm

Aquaponics Fuel Diversified Oregon Farm

August 2013

Aquaponics is our life and we are proud to be featured in Acres U.S.A. and we appreciate all the support!Aquaponics

 Acres U.S.A. is North America’s oldest and largest magazines covering commercial-scale organic and sustainable farming. 

New Wave
Michael Hasey and his partner, Olivia Hittner, have turned 40 acres in southern Oregon’s Evans Valley into The Farming Fish  a certified organic aquaponics farm where tilapia, vegetables, field crops and wild produce co-exist in harmony.

click here to read the full Acres USA article.pdf

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Big Thanks to the Author Gary Digiuseppe

Check out the Voice of Eco-Agriculture at http://www.acresusa.com

July 2013 – Sustainable fish farming

Farm & Market Features Sustainable fish farming in Oregon’s Rogue Valley 

Creating a food cycle for the future.

 July 2013

By GRANT BUTLER
Photography by MOTOYA NAKAMURA
(Thanks so much to both of you!)

Sustainable Fish Farming

sustainable fish farmingEast of Rogue River is some of the most beautiful landscape southern Oregon has to offer. Rolling hills are dotted with groves of evergreen and oak trees, and cattle graze through the occasional acre of grassy meadow. High above, red-tailed hawks circle.

At the top of one of those rocky, south-facing slopes is a massive hoop-style greenhouse where six 3,000-gallon tanks teem with thousands of tilapia, which farmers Michael Hasey and Olivia Hittner are convinced hold the key to the future of sustainable farmed fish and organic agriculture.

Hasey and Hittner co-own The Farming Fish, an aquaponic farm that sells both fresh tilapia and pristine organic vegetables that have been grown in water loaded with nutrients that the fish produce as they grow.

“Aquaponics is amazingly sustainable,” Hasey says. “It’s replicating exactly what’s happening in a natural ecosystem.”

sustainable fish farmingThe Farming Fish is really an enclosed eco-system. Tilapia are raised from hatchlings, eventually growing up in large tanks, which feed water to the dangling roots of basil plants. To keep everything organic, insects like preying mantis keep pests at bay, and carnivorous plants keep the air clear of mosquitos and flies.

Unlike conventional farmed-fish operations, aquaponics — a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water) — produces no run-off and makes virtually no impact on the environment. The water that’s used to raise the fish and grow produce is recirculated, creating an enclosed system that doesn’t pose a danger to nearby lakes and streams.

“One of the fun things we get to do is help people understand that farmed fish can be done right, and to really look at how the fish that you’re eating is being raised,” Hittner says. “There’s a big difference between our farm-raised fish and other farm-raised fish.”

The pitfalls of foreign farms

There’s growing demand for tilapia. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, tilapia is the fourth most-consumed seafood in the United States, after shrimp, tuna and salmon.

But only five percent of tilapia that’s eaten here is domestically raised. And many foreign tilapia farms are unregulated, resulting in huge breeding programs that pollute natural waterways. Plus tilapia is considered an invasive species, and it has been known to escape and crowd out native species.

sustainable fish farmingTo grow pristine fresh basil, The Farming Fish’s Michael Hasey and Olivia Hittner plant individual seeds, which are fed by filtered water coming from a half-dozen 3,000-gallon tanks, each holding 700 tilapia at various stages of growth.
A lot of imported tilapia comes from massive farms in China, where fish may be swimming in murky waters. According to Seafood Watch, there is evidence that prophylactic antibiotics and banned fungal treatments are used in some Chinese tilapia production.

“There’s no comparison between the quality of our fish and what comes from China,” Hasey says. “Our tilapia are beautiful, and the flesh is so firm and tender because they’re in really clean, healthy water, and they get fed so many vegetables off of the farm when we’re harvesting. They’re getting high-quality natural foods.”

“We have the freshest fish around, raised without any hormones, drugs or genetic modification. It’s crazy that consumers are willing to save 25 cents a pound and risk their health.”

sustainable fish farming

Sustainability Fish Farming = a closed loop system

Walking through the hoop-house containing the fish and thousands of basil plants, Hasey talks about how the system works with an evangelistic fervor. The fish and plants, he contends, have a perfect symbiotic relationship.

“With aquaponics, you’re feeding your fish and they gain weight for market. Those nutrients (from their waste) feed your plants, and those plants are filtering things, sending clean water back to the fish. But the fish in an aquaponic system, that’s not really where the beauty is. No one in aquaponics is making any money off of the fish. What they really are doing is providing free nutrients for the plants, which lowers the overhead for growing produce.”

sustainable fish farming

The fish in the six tanks and smaller hatchery aquariums are at various stages of growth, and take six months to reach the ideal size for market, averaging about two pounds each. When it’s time to sell the tilapia, they are transferred to a licensed fish-processing plant, then are sold either fresh or frozen, ranging from $5 a pound for a whole fish to $14 a pound for fillets.

“Our fish cost more than what’s coming from China, that’s for sure, but we do try to keep it reasonable,” Hittner says. “It still costs a lot less than a lot of the fish that’s out there.”

But the fish are just the start of the system. Water from the tanks goes through bio-filters down to long troughs where large, floating polystyrene sheets are loaded with containers holding seedlings and full-grown plants, their long root systems dangling deep into the water. Swimming among the roots are tiny mosquitofish and frogs, which feast on mosquito larvae, while dragonflies, lady bugs, preying mantis and carnivorous plants work above the water, clearing the air of fungus gnats, aphids and other pests that can damage organic produce.

The hoop-house is warm and humid, ideal for the warm-water fish and heat-loving vegetables, but Hasey says there’s actually very little water lost to evaporation.

“Most of our water loss is through harvesting and the water weight of the vegetables,” Hasey says.

Aquaponics uses 80 to 90 percent less water to grow these vegetables compared to traditional in-ground farming using irrigation. And because there’s no weeding, mowing or plowing, it has a lower carbon footprint.

“We’re passionate about all sustainable agriculture,” Hittner says. “There’s a need for respect for all types of organic farming, and this is just another aspect of it that could help us stop using chemicals and overusing resources.”

While the aquaponic system gets most of the attention from Hasey and Hittner, they also have a plot of land where they grow root vegetables, melons and other veggies — plants that don’t thrive with aquaponics. But those plants still receive some of the benefits.

“We get a little bit of waste when we’re cleaning things — fish emulsion, or dissolved solids — and that goes into our compost and helps us build better topsoil,” Hasey says. “When you combine an aquaponic system with in-ground growing, there’s no waste at all.”

Hasey and Hittner have had great success with their plants, selling lettuce and other greens at summertime farmers markets in the area. And they plan to begin distributing their living basil plants throughout the Northwest.

sustainable fish farming

Happy fish, happy crops

While The Farming Fish’s setup is relatively large, aquaponics can be done on a much-smaller scale. In nearby Eagle Point, about 30 minutes northeast of Medford, Kreg and Angie Boudro grow vegetables at the much smaller Rock Field Farms. The name comes from the rock-filled landscape that would be utterly useless as regular farmland.

“There is no soil,” Angie Boudro says. “It’s really rocky.”
But there is room for two small hoop-houses and a larger greenhouse, where they grow lettuce and herbs using water coming from a single tank holding about 1,000 tilapia.
Unlike The Farming Fish, Rock Field Farms holds onto its tilapia because they are needed to provide nutrients for the agricultural operation. They’ve sold some of the tilapia to customers, but only a few times after vegetables are harvested and they don’t need such nutrient-rich water. State regulations make selling the fish tricky. Legally, they can only be sold at the farm alive, but they have to be dead before leaving the property because there’s concern about the fish being released into streams. It’s complicated, but Kreg Boudro says they follow the law to the letter.

“There are people in prison because they broke those rules,” he says.

While The Farming Fish’s Hasey has been working with aquaponics for more than 10 years, Kreg Boudro is still relatively new to it. He had been working as a tile-setter in the construction industry, but changed careers after work evaporated in the wake of 2008’s financial crisis. When he learned about aquaponics, he realized it was a type of farming that he could do on the rocky, steeply sloped land behind his country home.

sustainable fish farmingThe upside of having a tilapia farm is that whenever the craving for fish tacos springs up you don’t have to go far to get the freshest filets possible.

Since they don’t normally sell their fish, The Boudros depend on farmers market sales of their produce for their income. On a chilly Thursday morning, Angie is selling large heads of living lettuce, bunches of lemon spinach and Swiss chard from a stand at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market, held once a week in a sparse parking lot in front of the Medford National Guard Armory building.

“People can get basic greens anywhere,” she says. “We always try to have three to four things people can’t get elsewhere.”
Among those unusual vegetables are Chinese leeks, which look like regular chives but have a stronger flavor and enough body to stand up to a hot saute pan. Boudro hands out samples to market customers, who are surprised by their bold taste.
Boudro believes that the intense flavors of her greens and vegetables are directly related to aquaponics.

“One of the things our customers frequently tell us is that our lettuce has more flavor than anything they’ve ever had,” she says. “I had one lady say, ‘I never thought lettuce had flavor until I had your lettuce.’ ”

Because roots are attached to most of the produce that Rock Field Farms and The Farming Fish sell, the plants are technically alive and can last up to three weeks in the refrigerator — something that can’t be done with cut greens.
The Boudros also are experimenting with the types of vegetables that can succeed in an aquaponic system, particularly tomatoes, which are thriving in their greenhouse.
“It’s amazing how much fruit is on here,” Kreg Boudro says. “They’ve really taken off.”

sustainable fish farmingA long-term solution

Because aquaponic farming can be done in places with poor soil and limited water, there’s hope that it could be the future of farming in arid places like sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East.

“We talk a lot these days about decreasing farmland,” Angie Boudro says. “We’re running out of land, so I see this as the way of the future, because you can grow anywhere.”
Hasey says that in urban areas, aquaponics can turn an empty parking lot into a productive farm.

“It really shines there,” Hasey says. “But let’s face it, we’re losing our topsoil even out here in the country. This land has been used for growing alfalfa and onions, with a lot of neglect for many years. Sustainable aquaponics could aid in improving our topsoil. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think that every farm one day will have a small aquaponic system.”

January 29, 2013 – KBOI Channel 5 News Joe’s Journal

KBOI Channel 5 News Joe’s Journal

January 29 2013

The Farming Fish TilapiaTilapia is a tropical fish mainly found in Africa…so how is it thriving on a Southern Oregon farm? The practice is known as Aquaponics and its specialty of a Rogue River Farm called “The Farming Fish”.

http://www.kobi5.com/news/joes-journal/item/the-farming-fish.html

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Spring 2013 New Pioneer Magazine

The Farming Fish

Published in New Pioneer Magazine

By: Michael Hasey

Spring 2013 issue

That’s right. Thanks to Aquaponics, tilapia feed the hydroponic and in-ground crops at this innovative hillside farm.

Bob Marley’s “Do It Twice” sounds from the alarm, well before the sun peeks its face from behind the mountaintop, even before the rooster has taken his warm wings from his special hens to crow and start the day.

We rise to the occasion, sip our cup, check our lists, and dive into our chores. It starts like this: open up the chicken coops and lay some feed down for the chickens, turn on the drip irrigation, water the seedlings, observe the night bugs, enjoy the sunrise, help Olivia off to the farm­er’s market, do some seeding, hold a heavy steel object while Coyote cus­tomizes the tractor, stock 700 fry and harvest 1600 lbs. of tilapia…. What?

BASED ON AQUAPONICS

Welcome to a not-so-average, organic farm centered on aquaponics. This is a wild and beautiful land with poor soil and steep slopes. Upon moving to our new home more than one neighbor with good intentions warned us that “nothing will grow there, in that red clay.” The property has two primary growing areas. Only one is currently being used as I write this piece; the other is home for some mustangs. The area we first focused on putting into cultivation was the steeper of the two and seemingly the least desirable for farmland. But as I said before, this is not your average farm.

Since aquaponics is the center of our farm plan, we wanted a property with clean water, in abundance, with strong rights to it. We found that here. We also dreamed of a property where one day we could generate our own power via wind, solar and/or hydro­electricity. The land is surrounded by windy peaks, has a southern exposure and pristine mountain stream with lots of drop that falls right through the center of the land.

LIFE BLOOD OF THE FARM

When most people think of the life cycle of a farm they imagine a plot of dirt, rows being cultivated, fertilizer, tractor, produce and a farmer. Perhaps not readers of The New Pioneer, but the average Joe. Well for us the life cycle starts in the woods, well above the aquaponic system and rows of veg­gies. Having woods near a farm offers real stability to the land; it helps main­tain more consistent temperatures, it cools during the day and helps to hold heat at night.

For this reason and many others we placed our largest greenhouse right next to the forest. It’s in these woods that we retrieve our water, the life blood of our farm. With its microor­ganisms, it makes our aquaponics sys­tem thrive, boosts the microbes in our soil and quenches our plants’ thirst.

These woods are also home to ben­eficial insects, birds and other flora and fauna that collectively serve im­portant ecological niches. At times we harvest small amounts of fluff from the forest floor to aid capillary action or add humus to our gardens. The woods are also our wild harvest area. While much of this bounty stays on our dinner table, we sell some at our local farmer’s markets: wildflow­ers, mushrooms, blackberries, miner’s lettuce, wild mint, lamb’s quarters, chamomile, lemon balm and more.

IRRIGATION

In the stream we have a simple dam of sticks and mud. Just before this dam is a gas powered trash pump with a (tiny by agricultural standards) 1-inch poly pipe. It is the backbone of all our water needs. We put a cap full of gasoline in the motor to prime the pump and line. We run the irriga­tion system one zone at a time with pressure from gravity and the water stored behind the dam. We use this water to fill the aquaponics system when needed as well

Most water-wise irrigation systems are more economical to install than larger ones. Ours is made up of mi­cro-sprinklers and drip heads. The mi­cro-sprinklers are installed over all of the raised beds or high-layered rows and the drip heads are placed in the garden areas we refer to as the viney patches. That’s where we grow pump­kins, melons, squash.

We copied the ancient agriculture practices of the Maya people, using permanent raised beds that we layer mulch and compost, practicing ter­racing, managing fallows, forest gar­dens and harvesting from the wild. We keep deep furrows around all our growing beds; this helps channel and capture water.

To learn more about what we are doing, visit our Facebook page and our website: thefarmingfish.com.

For sustainable agricultural services and aquaponic design and consulting for your own system contact

http://www.ameliora­tioninc.com.

The Aquaponics System

In our greenhouse, roughly 8000 square feet, about 60,000 gallons of water re-circulate through the system. Our aquapon­ics system uses 90% percent less water than a comparable area of soil-grown crops does. The system produces about 10,000 heads of lettuce a month or roughly 22,000 pounds of leafy greens and herbs. We harvest about 1600 pounds of tilapia. Although it brings us a welcome source of delicious protein, our main focus is on the veggies.

We feed our fish in tanks separated yet connected via plumbing from the veggies in the hydroponic runs. The fish are happy to take as much food as they can get. They take this feed and gain weight for market as well as produce waste, which feeds a colony of beneficial bacteria.

The water from each of the six tanks flows into a biological filtration tank where bacteria digest the waste into nutrients, Notosomonas convert the ammonia to nitrite and Nitorbacter consume the nitrite and convert it to nitrate. The nitrate enriched water then circulates through the hydroponic tanks and/or into the terraced in-ground beds below.

In hydroponics there is no such nitro­gen cycle. The necessary nitrogen and/or fertilizer is added directly to the water in a soluble and synthetic form. With aquaponics all the fertilizer is created and maintained within the system in a more natural process.

New Pioneer full article with pictures.pdf

May 15, 2013 – Sustainable Table: From Seed to Store

Sustainable Table: From Seed to Store

by Erin Maxson

Published May 15, 2013

see video – http://www.kdrv.com/sustainable-table-from-seed-to-store/

WIMER, Ore. — There are dozens of local farms and companies contributing to the supply of food grown and made in the Rogue Valley. While many of those producers have mastered their craft getting a product to the consumer can take a very different set of skills.

The tiny basil plants at The Farming Fish outside of Wimer are going to spend three weeks on the shelves before they spend 4 to 5 weeks in the aquaponic system. Then they are branded and sent to market.

“This is the first official co-branding partnership with a local farm,” Tom Marks says.

At the beginning of the year, The Farming Fish started looking for a distribution partner.

“It just so happened it turned out to be the local guy who happened to have the same morals and ethics as we do and it worked out beautifully,” Olivia Hittner, one of the partners in the company explains.

Hittner and her partner Michael Hasey partnered with Tom Marks who launched the Rogue Nation foods brand.

“It allows a consumer to immediately see, ‘Oh, this is a product that represents the Rogue Valley,’ that represents this high level of integrity and quality,” Tom says.

Produce from the aquaponic farm is not new to the Medford Food Co-Op, but the living basil and its packaging is new.

“You might just see this little local symbol but with a larger brand and notoriety. It brings a real pop to the product line, and we do see that things that are marketed well sell better.”

Both sides expect to benefit from the partnership.

“It really allows them to focus on their skill set and allows us to focus on our skill set,” Tom explains.

The farming fish can now reach a larger customer base.

“The way to do that was to work with someone who could give us the support in marketing and branding and who knew the distribution system and had the experience with that level of distribution,” Olivia comments.

It pumps dollars into the local economy.

“The more we can export, the more money we’ll be importing. So, the idea is that we want to retain dollars in the community and export anything that we can,” Tom adds.

The branding also promotes what’s going on in the Southern Oregon food scene.

“So, the more we can gain notoriety for Rogue Valley brands, sell those to other distributors and other areas, they learn about what we are doing in the Rogue Valley and how we are working toward sustainability,” he says.

Olivia says that’s already happened at The Farming Fish and that recently some visitors stopped by the organic farm, “who were very interested in aquaponics and wanted to learn more about it.”

“I think that is going to happen more and more. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted do the packaging and the branding to help educate as well.”

Yet this week, the biggest and best of these basil plants will be sent to market. The little ones will be turned into pesto and they will be co-branded under Rogue Nation Foods as well and they’ll end up on store shelves.