Commercial Aquaponics in Gaithersburg, Maryland

Bella Vita Farms LLC in Gaithersburg, MD opened a new greenhouse with a state-of-the-art aquaponic system about three months ago.

The farm has had no problem selling their produce at great prices because local chefs recognize the quality. In fact, they cannot keep up with demand and the farm already plans to expand the aquaponic system.

Bella Vita staff noted that not only does aquaponics provide top-notch produce, but it is also much friendlier for the environment because it uses much  less water, and no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers that pollute our waterways.

The Farm started with koi, but just recently transitioned to tilapia, which they also plan to sell to local restaurants.

Urban Ag in the 2019 DC Food Economy Study

The DC Food Policy Council just published the 2019 DC Food Economy Study. It is filled with interesting information about where our food comes from, and insights about where we are headed.

Read the study: https://dcfoodpolicycouncilorg.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/food-economy-study.pdf?mc_cid=b21fb5afb3&mc_eid=5f7b24b706

Regarding urban agriculture, the study states:

“…urban farms in the District should have more access to resources and support. Farms not only supply fresh food to other food businesses; they also create local jobs, activate green spaces, and often provide healthy food to the surrounding communities. Yet currently urban farms in the District struggle to navigate licensing and permitting, identify grants and resources, and access large contracts and buyers. In addition, there is insufficient data on the current offerings and sales of District farms, making it difficult to measure progress. The District will soon provide more assistance to urban farms through the newly created Office of Urban Agriculture in the Department of Energy and the Environment created by the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Support Act.”

National Conference Discussion

Anacostia Aquaponics Director Brian Filipowich appeared on the Growing with Fishes Podcast to discuss the upcoming national Putting Out Fruits Conference and other national activities.

Here’s how to access the podcast.

Podcast host Steve Raisner will be at the Conference, presenting on the newest advances in Insect and Pest Management, and partaking in an Aquaponic-Cannabis Production Panel.

Visit to South Mountain MicroFARM

We had a great visit to a VERY impressive aquaponic system at South Mountain MicroFARM in Boonsboro, MD.

This farm uses aquaponics for commercial crops like lettuce, which are sold locally. Aquaponics allows the farm to use only one-eighth of the land and one-tenth of the water as the same crops grown in soil!

Aquaponics Visit from Nigeria!

A warm Washington, DC welcome to Professor Ayoola Akinwole (pictured right) from the University of Ibadan in Ibadan, Nigeria!

Professor Akinwole is here to take our Small-scale Aquaponics Training Course. While in town, we will also be visiting other aquaponics sites including South Mountain Microfarm, the University of Maryland Envi-Sci & Tech Department, Cultivate the City’s H Street Farms (pictured), IDEA Public Charter School, and maybe UDC.

After DC, Professor Akinwole will travel to Tennessee to view more aquaponics attractions.

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (4/4)

Business Development was the last issue we identified at the Potomac Aquaponics Conference last Fall.

Commercial aquaponics ventures have high upfront costs, and must manage multiple sides of the business: fish and plants.

We identified municipal business development agencies, the USDA, and agriculture colleges as possible collaborators in developing the commercial side of aquaponics.

 

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (3/4)

The aquaponics trailer was a highlight of the Potomac Aquaponics Conference.

This trailer is a mobile educational tool that travels all over Virginia, which is why it is the perfect example for the next issue we identified at the conference: Education & Outreach.

We need to teach more people about the benefits of aquaponics, so that more people enter the industry and consumers understand the benefits of aquaponics produce.

This will need to be a large effort undertaken by the entire aquaponics community.

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (2/4)

Participants at the meeting identified three areas in which Potomac-region growers could advance aquaponics.

The first was food safety. We identified all the actors involved in aquaponics food safety, which turned out turned out to be a very long list! We identified:

  • farmers,
  • distributors,
  • retailers,
  • state departments of health,
  • state departments of agriculture,
  • the USDA,
  • the FDA,
  • fisheries, and
  • third-party auditors

Coordination will be critical among these groups to ensure consistency, fairness, and efficiency in aquaponics food safety regulation.

Stay tuned for more from the Potomac Aquaponics Association.

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (1/4)

Last Fall, Members of the Potomac Aquaponics Association met for a two-day conference to discuss advancing aquaponics in the Potomac region.

Represented at the meeting were: the national Aquaponics Association, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the University of the District of Columbia, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, and Anacostia Aquaponics DC LLC.

We identified three areas in which we could advance aquaponics in the Potomac region. Stay tuned for part 2!

Teachers’ Night @ the U.S. Botanic Gardens

The D.C. Environmental Education Consortium (DCEEC) recently hosted a Teachers’ Night at the U.S. Botanic Gardens. DC Teachers networked with local environmentally-focused organizations, and a great time was had by all!

Anacostia Aquaponics hosted an information table at the event and met many great teachers.

One of Anacostia Aquaponics’ goals is to incorporate aquaponics into DC STEM curriculum, as is already being done across the nation!

Classroom aquaponics is an approachable, scalable, engaging, multi-disciplinary learning tool.

An aquaponic system lends itself to learning across disciplines, particularly the NGSS focus in Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering Design. [Credit for aquaponics STEM quotes to Kevin Savage, Aquaponics Association; and Kieran Foran, Trifecta Ecosystems]