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Sunday, November 20, 2011

How to Grow the Network?

Background
In a recent MSNBC Green Planet piece, (see sep't 25th Blog) Sociologist Alphonse Morales noted that Aquaponics was twenty years away from being a practical food growing technology.  This was because of two factors: a lack of effective business models, and an absence of trained personnel.  The Family Fish Farms Network has a practical solution to both of these issues.

Business Model
Through application of a distributive growing strategy that creates many small (micro) farms located in the urban centers where the majority of the population is centered, we can grow food locally.  We can also present a national brand by controlling the marketing, standards, and training thorough a strong central organization.  The urban micro farms will be locally owned and operated but will be marketed centrally.  This will permit farmers to respond with agility to local consumer demand and it will eliminate the need for costly transport, while also eliminating the cost of a jobber or distributor, thus reducing the cost to the consumer.  It will also assure a supply of high quality protein and organic vegetables if there is a national food distribution problem.  In other words if gives control (sovereignty) and confidence (security) that the food will be nutritious, fresh, and available.


Staff Training
We have a proprietary, highly efficient skills training model, that will permit us to provide focused performance based skills training, that will enable us to teach anyone to effectively manage and operate one of our network farms.  Our skills certification program will allow us to provide a generation of competent aquaponic technicians who are capable of running operating any farm in the network.  The Network will also apply sophisticated process control methods to assure quality.  We will also apply technology to simplify and manage daily plant operations.  Our centralized management system will support each urban micro farm through accounting, technical performance, and inventory control.  Central ordering and national network operations through cloud (internet) connectivity will be a universal constant.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Creation of The Global Family Fish Farms Network



We have launched a global movement to establish aquaponics as a means to local food security and food sovereignty.  Today at 12:00 PM (Noon, EST) we will host our first international conference call to that end.

We have established a Linkedin Group named:  Commercial Aquponics.  If you have an interest in starting or supporting a commercial aquaponics food production program, then this is where you should be.  The group has some 50 or so members and it was only started a month of so ago.  This is a further indicator of the level of interest in Aquaponics in general and the larger issues of healthy food production and environmental husbandry.

What We Intend to Accomplish?
Background - Although some well run aquaponics operations exist both here and in other countries, the technology is not well known and reliable technical information necessary to run a commercial aquaponics operation is still not codified.  Understand that we neither refer to boutique operations that are dependent upon grants and philanthropy, nor do we include large scale factory operations.  The Family Fish Farms Network supports and advocates a distributive network of urban, peri urban, and rural micro aquaponic farms that are highly efficient and optimized for local food production.

Vision - It is our inention to create a framework, or network of highly efficient aquaponics micro farms.and in addition  to foster, support, and invest in those who share our vision.   The internet provides a common communications vehicle with which to establish such a network.  Our Linkedin Group has given us the sense of need and purpose necessary to this task.

Inception - We will start by building a common sense of purpose, sharing technology, and business models and then by group sourcing a funding mechanism.  We intend to do this In close association with The Recirculating Farms Coalition www.recirculatingfarms.organd as a member of that organization.  The specific details of the network are yet to be defined but the need is clear and the will obviously exists.  This is the first such conference call.  There will be others and we are also planning a Webinar to further share our model and vision.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Food Security, Sustainablity, and Sovereignty


Our Food Supply Cannot be Placed At Risk 
  • We import 45 Million pounds of Tilapia from Ecuador and Double that from Asia Upwards of half of our winter produce is imported from Mexico.
  • Clean water, more critical than food is being depleted at a rate faster than the planet can replenish it. 
  • The average head of lettuce travels 1,500 miles from farm to table. Carbon costs are a major factor in the food chain in the production of commercial fertilizer and in food transport. 
Present Conventional Farming Models Place Us At Risk

We, as a nation and a planet can not afford to use antiquated and costly food production methods. It is also a national security issue. Interdiction of the food and water supply could bring us to our knees faster than any number of terror bombers. Remember, when the supermarkets are out of food (and waiting for the trucks that will not come) there will be NO FOOD LEFT!  In addition we have significant exposure due to long supply chains with a number of steps that could either be interrupted or where food is vulnerable to intentional or unintentional contamination

Aquaponics - Best Hope for Food Security and Sustainability
Our model for a distributive network of local food production micro sites provides the best strategy for maintaining food security and sustainability through local control and supply.   A distributive food production method has a much higher survivability profile than a large centralized system.  For example, almost half of our winter produce could be knocked out by hitting one transfer center near Nogales Mexico.

Food Sovereignty
If we maintain local control over major segments of our food supply, we maintain control over our nutrition.  We can limit or eliminate contamination and pollution.  We are no longer at the mercy of the large retailers and distributors who control what we can eat and when we can eat it.  This is true food sovereignty.




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vertical Growing & Aquaponics - A Marriage Made in Heaven?


A Short Lesson in Commercial Growing History

The take away from this piece is that we can incorporate these principals into our urban farming aquaponics model to dramatically increase commercial yield and the production of each distributive micro farm.

We used to sow tomato seed into a seed tray then prick the seed out into a planting tray grow these on and then plant by tearing the plants roots and hand planting into soil.
We used to grow a winter crop of lettuce then either planted up with Cucumbers or Tomatoes.
At the end of the crop we used to “flood” the soil to remove excess salts from the land so we could plant Lettuce, which We used to thinly sow into seed trays then put a line or string down to keep straight lines and have a piece of cane 8ins long for the distance between the plants. Most growers used to get one / two crops of lettuce and one crop of Tomatoes.
Or they planted two crops of Lettuce and then two crops of Cucumbers.
Tomato yield used to be 30 tons per acre
.
Ventilation used to be done by hand and done by lifting each vent on its own.
Then along came a pulley system on a winch where we could wind the vents up and down from one end of the glasshouse. All this was open the vents when it got warm and close them when it got cold.

Take the common Glasshouse we had the English House with a three foot brick wall and a sloping roof to the centre, then came the Dutch Light Glasshouse built of wood with wooden gutters and each pane of glass enclosed inside a wooden frame and every third “pane” used to be a vent. Then along came the Venlo with its problems, How many remember the amount of Lettuce crops that where lost through Mildew, and why? Because the Venlo was very well sealed for heating and crop control and did not have the air flow (natural air gaps) of the Dutch light glasshouse. Growers had to learn how to grow again.  Then came along automatic vents, heating, irrigation, and the use of co2 and the birth of mono crop nurseries, and computer control which allowed us to control every aspect of the growing.  We then started to take the Co2 of the boiler and use this during the day for the plants, we could only run this when heat was needed or waste heat by venting the excess heat but this also lost Co2.

Now We Can Control The Variables in Growing

Along with this came computer control which brought the advancement of the modern Glasshouse Nursery, We found we could now control everything the plant needed to grow a better plant and be more efficient.  Then we progressed to Heat storage so any heat used during the day to produce Co2 was stored and used on a night therefore saving energy.
So we have progressed from planting by hand and letting nature grow the plants and using the glasshouse as a cover against the elements right through to sophisticated computer controlled glasshouse complexes with automation that most people do not know exist.
Today’s Glasshouses are computer controlled growing facilities completely sustainable using renewable energy, recirculating all water and nutrients and even using the rainwater not a drop is wasted the plants are watered by sunlight measurement and moisture measurement only receiving water when they need it.

Yet if someone were to propose to a grower in the 60’s that he could achieve at least seven times more production per square metre without any compromise on quality or yield, he would probably assume you were a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Imagine if you had said as a grower you will not spray chemicals but use beneficial parasites to control whitefly, leaf minor and Red Spider mites.

So let’s get back to Vertical growing most people think Sky Scrapers costing $1.5 billion with plants growing inside on every level and some even think chickens , pigs etc. on several floors . Well they may be right but this is in the future. You hear all the claims “Our system makes use of recirculation of nutrients” and use sustainable energy. WOW aren’t they years behind us professional growers we have been using these for decades. Let’s take it one step at a time and learn and improve on what we know. We are not saying you can grow every crop in a vertical situation but most crops can be, yes we need a light source but look how that has improved in the last four years. Indeed our own company is doing lighting trials that will cut down the number of lights you need.  If you said to me I want to grow Tomatoes, Cucumbers inside a warehouse in a vertical growing system I would ask WHY? For now we have the most efficient system there is, a long season crop grown with heating, oil, gas, bio, CHP and the list goes on. Co2, lighting, anaerobic digestion, so why would you grow this type of crop inside a warehouse.

In large commercial growing operations we now see sophisticated moving bench systems, hydroponics, irrigation systems, environmental control, artificial lighting systems, and state of the art greenhouses to maximize the potential of the natural environment and reach levels of production unheard of in past decades.  While efficiency in production increases so does the viability of the whole business model. You only have to visit Thanet Earth in Kent to appreciate just how big and important this expansion is, and how far it has come already.
Yet to believe that productivity has been maximized and every optimum reached is to ignore the progress already achieved. Commercial growing never stops improving and sometimes those improvements are far beyond what we thought possible
With land pressures set to increase in the coming decades the question that needs a solution is not how to expand our existing growing space but instead it should be about how we produce more from the growing area we currently use.
Present productivity per square metre in intensive commercial crop production is already remarkable compared to previous decades, but you can only force the growth of a plant so far to reach its maximum yield or production level.  Just the same sort of reaction his father before him might have had to Hydroponic Growing and to what is being achieved today in intensive commercial horticulture.  Well there is no madness to the claim of such an increase in production. Taking the very best of the hydroponics and mechanized advances of recent decades and combining that with 21st Century lateral thinking we have a viable working solution that ushers in a new way of growing.

Our system does not look at plant production simply as in what yield you can generate per square metre, instead we look at what production is per cubic metre. If plants could grow one on top of another at the same time we would all think in terms of plant growth per cubic metre. Now stack one cubic metre upon another and you start see where we are going with this?
A lot of advanced technology and investment has gone into creating moving growing benches and robotic control to allow commercial production to maximize its use of space. Using automation and advanced technology to move plants around a growing area without human effort is now a standard, and sizeable growing operations can be run with staffing levels lower than most other production industries.
So we have progressed from stationary plant growing too commercial set ups where plants are almost in constant motion to maximize the use of space and control. So why stop at moving benches?

The principle of using automation to move plant stock is a commercial success in every sense, but there is a basic principle in this idea that is still to come and will transform such growing operations into truly incredible production spaces.  Our system doesn’t just move the plant stock to make production easier from a human perspective. We have considered the demands of plant growth itself and the uniformity and growth control required to achieve a level of quality production and yield that makes the return on capital investment viable from every commercial aspect.  Our system even allows for staged integration to allow existing operations to transfer through a modular staged build program. This allows capital investment and commercial return to be optimized both in short and long term planning without effecting the basic infrastructure already in place in most commercial growing operations.
In effect the grower can start at almost any level of transfer without the worry that a partial implementation will result in duplicate infrastructure costing for later expansion. Investment at any level does not deter from future expansion because this is a modular system designed for complete or staged integration. The production on this system is also at such a significantly high level that projected return on investment supports both a fully or partially committed investment approach.

So Vertical Growing inside a building is a reality and it is a commercial viability.

Progress Update: What's Happening NOW.


Web Presence Grows as well
As many of you know, I have been busy on the Net ... the website (landing page) is now active on all our social media now.  You can get to Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and our blog all from the bottom right hand corner of the site.  Our blog continues to be active as we are posting regularly there.  Let me give you the link once more.  ow that the website is moving towards being an effective tool for us.  Here is it: http://www.thefamilyfishfarmsnetwork.com  Also, while I'm at it, here's our National Capital Jobs Coalition blog as well: http://dcfirstsource.blogspot.com and finally, our drumming website: http://www.drumminganendtopoverty.org
 
A Growing Partership
Under alliances and contacts etc ... we have reconected with an organization we worked with in the beginning.  They are an Aquaculture, or fish farm oriented group that has refocused on Aquaponics.  The United Network  of Aquaculture Producers. or UNAP.    This is run by an Engineer turned community economic development activist.  They are well connected in PG county MD. and have a facility there that includes a 13 tank installation.  The facility is not yet operational and we can still have significant input into the process.    The business relationship is under consideration as this email is being sent.  This will give our brand a home base and a resource pool to support ongoing development.
 
Rawn Tarrant formerly a program manager at Covenant House, a well known community development NGO here in the District and and former assoicate of Mayor Vincent Gray has joined our team as program manager.  We also have networked with Mike Tabor a former hippie and sixties hell raiser now a dedicated and experienced organic farmer. He is well connected in the affluent organic food community.  Mike has made several key introductions for us including the Rouse family of Reston and Columbia fame.

Recent Connections 
As part of our community engagement program here in DC we are partnered with Rob Ransom proprietor of the Dupont Hotels (3 small boutique hotels) here in DC.  Rob brings a unique community perspective and a passion for economic development, as well as, deep relationships in the community and local municipal government to our program...  Another recent connection is the pastor of a large church near us here in the NE DC area.  This is part of our community involvemment with faith based organizations as potential partners in a cooperative development strategy.  The Pastor has expressed interest in building on the property adjacent to his church.  We are presently discussing engegement of a minister as laison to the churches
 
Money Talks ...
I am working also on our Equity Plan for attracting social investors on Linkedin.  Our "Commercial Aquponics" group there has over 30 members and in one month only!   We have attracted top aquaponics production and technical experts and all have expressed a serious interest in our distributive business model.  Look to the Blog!  Try once more, if you are not getting emails on updates ... there are two steps to the  process.  One is the register, the  second to get email notices on posts.  Amanda et al ... I would like to hear from you folks who are still engaged and want to support us.  Let us know you're still out there ... it gets lonely here sometimes.
 
Look for an announcement on funding shortly.  I feel we are getting very close here

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What is a Disruptive Food Technology?

First Question - Define Disruptive Technology?
Here is a quote from Wikipedia, 
"A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is one that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology there. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect." 
Second Question: - Define Disruptive Food Technology
This sounds like it was written to describe The Family Fish Farms Network.  We are the very embodiment of a "disruptive technology."  We have the potential to fundamentally change the existing markets and, by extension, the entire food value chain.  Our approach (technology) will de facto improve the quality and availability of food.  The above definition goes on to state, once more our exact predicted impact on food markets nationally.  Once again to quote Wikepedia  to wit:
"...first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market."
By building a network of distributive aquponics urban farms located in the inner cities where the population exists, we bring high quality, nutritious food production to the market.  By removal of the distribution step from the value chain we change (disrupt) the costly transport costs and the hidden carbon costs as well.   Through our planned national network (through economies of scale) we can drastically reduce food production costs as well.

"...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We Are a Disruptive Food Production and Distribution Technology

It is Time to Re Think the Food Value Chain
The Traditional Cost of Food - A confluence of natural and man made events has opened the door to a shift in the conventional food production and distribution model.  The Family Fish Farms Network is about to introduce a disruptive new technology bundle that will revolutionize our food system.

End The Industrialization of Food
 One of the largest ecological detriments of the industrialization of food in the last 50-years is the cost of transporting food hundreds of miles from where it is produced to where it is consumed.  Government subsidy of food production, as well as major petroleum subsidies have made it feasible to transport food economically from places as far away as China and Chile to North America for American consumers.  Events of the last few years have exposed the inherent un-sustainability of this kind of food system, and the interest in local food in America has skyrocketed.  The numbers of farmers markets and community gardens continue to increase from year to year, and more and more of the population is seeking ways to reduce their dependence on industrialized food and its deep dependence on subsidized fossil fuels.

Sustainability Means Local Food
Many people easily associate sustainability with energy efficiency, recycling, biking, public transportation, solar power, hybrid vehicles, and even shopping at local businesses, but few readily associate sustainability with food. ...
Publish Date: 10/18/2011 13:00
http://vodaplan.com/2011/10/sustainability-means-local-food/


A Disruptive Technology - Changing the Growing and Distribution Model
Our production and business models are disruptive and revolutionary in that they turn the present system around.  Instead of large centrally located farms located hundreds or some times thousands of miles from centers of population,  we envision a national network of urban micro farms located within the inner cities.  Ours is a sustainable food production and distribution system that will disrupt and restructure how America produces food...local food, locally grown.  Many people easily associate sustainability with energy efficiency, recycling, biking, public transportation, solar power, hybrid vehicles, and even shopping at local businesses, but few readily associate sustainability with food.  How and what we eat as a community has a major impact on long-term sustainability.  “Eating locally” is more than just a pleasant aphorism for the wealthier among us, it is an absolutely essential goal for any community wishing to encourage a healthier population, create local jobs, and support local business.












Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aquaponics: Scale up, or Scale Down?


The Argument for Small Scale Local Food Production
If you serve a salad using lettuce harvested today from a local source it will taste measurably better that one harvested last week!  Given that the average head of lettuce travels 1,500 miles to market ... ?  Our argument is for a network of small micro farms circling a large city.  New York, Phil, DC, Atlanta, Chicago ... etc etc.

This will provide for security (one down system does not end production) Flexible consumer demand (each unit can produce 2 different products) and freshness (a local site can provide food that is hours not days from harvest)

The argument that large scale production is necessary to amortize plant and equipment is illusory in the

And ... it creates community economic development possibilities as well.  More jobs, more opportunity for ownership and community prosperity.  A national network of Reciriculating Aquaponics Systems (RAS) will provide an attractive opportunity for fresh local food, enhanced nutrition, and local engagement in the production of staple foods.  Scaling down in this case beats the scale up model every time.  Availability (12 months a year) Freshness (taste is the test) and Nutrition ( time erodes nutrient content of food)




Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Can We Make Commercial Aquaponics Work?

No Question - Aquaponics is the Future of Food!
Key issue -  Before aquaponics can take its place as a viable alternative to bland, empty corporate food, it must be able to secure substantive funding.  How do we get the investment needed to make this happen?   The Agribiz folks won't do it.  Why should they?  This goes against their "better living through chemistry .." model of massive fertilizer and pesticide application.  Why? Because they sell fertilizer and pesticides ... duhhhh!   It just ain't down their alley.  We have few successful examples of profitable aquaponics.  One reason is because of the boutique nature of the business at present.

Most aquaponic farms are demonstration and training facilities run by talented tinkerers, or a social entrepreneur.  Also, many farms exit on subsidies, grants, and/or are being deficit funded by the owner.  Aquaponics funding at the professional investor level is critical to solving the commercial business model.

Amy Crawford an Aquaponics Farmer from Northern California speaking at the 8th Annual Engineering Conference on Aquaculture,  Amy made the following address.   This highlights just how important professional funding is to the future success of this most promising technology.

An Interesting Challenge for Aquaponics
The majority of funding, of course, comes from the “industrial” corporations at the university research centers. Think CAFO … ie confined animal feeding operations… feed lots (cattle, hog, chicken, etc) that can maximize profits on the ...
Publish Date: 08/29/2010 18:14
http://theaquaponicsource.com/aquaponicgardeningblog/2010/08/29/an-interesting-challenge-for-aquaponics/


What our community needs is a well funded Aquaponics driven business model.
  •  A dedicated, investor funded, stock corporation with a significant profit motive in addition to a social purpose.  
  • ... a professional management team with modern process manufacturing and agricultural engineering abilities.  
  • Aquaponics also needs to be optimized as a healthy, food production and distribution model!
A National Business Model and Roll Out Plan
The Family Fish Farm Network has an evolved, well thought out business model.  We can all participate.  Let's put our knowledge and experience together.  It is the only way we can overcome the combined interests of Agribiz and not permit this technology to be turned to no good purpose.  Join us here and help work towards a common goal. Go to our website: www.thefamilyfishfarmsnetwork.com and join our team.  Then sign-in link is  at the bottom of the site.  

As Peter Drucker, the father of American management once said, "... if you want to control the future, help participate in its design."

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    FFF Team Meets with City Council Staff in DC


    Strategic Program Support for City Government
    Today a team from MicroVenture Support and our Family Fish Farms Network met with Mr. Mark Long, Director of Constituent Services for Councilman at Large Vincent Orange.  This was our first meeting as a team.  I have known Mr. Long from other community activities and the mayoral campaign here in the city.  Present at the meeting:  J. Peloquin, L. Yahr, R. Tarrant, and Rob Ramson.  Mr. Tarrant is a former program officer at Covenant House (when our mayor was its executive director) and Mr. Ramson is a local businessman and community development advocate.
    Public Private Sector Enterprise - NEW Green Jobs
    The meeting was a great success in that Mr. Long (a former investment banker) really understood The Family Fish Farm Network model for bringing decent green jobs and economic prosperity to our communities.  This is a first step in engaging the city as an active supporter of our community economic development strategy:  The Family Fish Farms Network. We will advise as contacts and discussions continue.
    Social Media Grows Fish
    We have been active on Linkedin on our Family Fish Farms Group and others as well.  I am beginning to see more and more interest.  One of my recent contacts, a builder of trash stream recycling systems is working on an aquaponics development proposal at the request of a nearby mayor.  We are to draft an engineering specification and feasibility study in support of the eventual award and to build out the system as well.  I will advise as more details become available ... that is if this actually matures into a real project.
    We also continue to blog and refine our social media strategy.  We are still limited by resources and skill but we will persavere and solve the minor issues that exist.  As you can tell we are making real progress.

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    A Repost from Linkedin's "Aquaponics Sustainable Farming Forum"

    Commercial Aquaponics Needs a National Voice


    When it comes to food production, even the largest scale aquaponics farms are lightweights compared to the Agribiz giants. If we are to have a real voice at the table we need two things. A national commercial success and a vocal, well funded advocacy effort here in Washington.

    The good news is that we have logic on our side. All the primal indicators are with us. ... most of which are economic. We are also a triple bottom line business: Economically Viable, Environmentally Sound, and Socially Responsible. We have a fledgling national organization (it supports both Aquaponics and the more traditional Hydroponics) the organization is called: The Recirculating Farms Coalition. (www.recirculatingfarms.org) Marianne Cufon is the Exec. Dir.

    We believe in small ... we believe in commercial. Our preference is for a distributive system of aquaponics micro farms all commercial and branded under a single name. The is what we intend The Family Fish Farms Network to achieve. We do NOT feel competitive with anyone and will open our minds and resources to anyone who wishes to pursue this most elegant and logical solution to a number of societal problems.  The list of benefits runs down the left hand side of this blog.  Read 'em and Cheer!

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Vote for Investment in Aquaponics

    White House Petition Initiative  Go to: http://wh.gov/4uO 
     PLEASE send this link out to your networks ...PLEASE!

    We just launched a petition on the  white house web site asking for favorable tax incentives for investment in aquaponics systems to offset the cost of pollution, the carbon cost of food and as Marianne Cufone just published on the Recirculating Farms Coalition facebook page ...

    U.S. PIRG put out a piece on childhood obesity, subsidies and growing commodity crops like soybeans and corn for sweeteners and high-fat oils. "Between 1995 and 2010, $16.9 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives - corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils." Would be great if recirc farms got that kind of help from the feds to provide healthy fresh food! http://www.uspirg.org/home/reports/report-archives/tax--budget-policy/tax--budget-policy--reports/apples-to-twinkies

    Our Petition could go a long way towards getting the attention of policy wonks in the White House ... well, it might?

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Aquaponics Urban Farming - 101

    "We plan to develop the business models and operating standards for the next century food production - Aquaponics Farms"
    The Family Fish Farms Model
    Our company employs aquaponics, a combination of intensive aquaculture and hydroponics to grow different varieties of seafood and vegetables.  Our business model includes distributive production with small local operating units. In consumer terms this means a wide choice of fresh local food options in both vegetables and seafood.   The resulting diversity in product mix gives us the flexibility to be responsive to local and regional consumer demand.


    Aquaponics works like this
    The technology is at least 500 years old.  It uses natural processes to brow both high quality protein (seafood and fish) as well as organic quality vegetables in a closed loop system.  The fish effluent is filtered and bio digested to permit only the nutrients to flow into the  plant growing subsystem (see graphic)  The fish are kept happy in clean clear water that is exchanged every three  hours.  Fish are sized to eliminate competition for food and the water is oxygenated and carbon dioxide removed.  Fish are also fed with organic vegetable based protein to eliminate contamination.


    MSNBC Green Planet with Brian Williams explains how Aquaponics can solve the twin problems of feedign a growing population while treading lightly on the environment.   Ann Thompson interviews a subsidized aquaponics site that also provides training for young people who will operate and maintain the future growing needs of our planet.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Urban Farms: A Growing Idea!


    Food Security?  Urban Farming to the Rescue!
    Environmental, Economic, Social, and Nutritional concerns augur well for the mass application of urban farming and we believe that Aquaponics will be the wave that brings Food Security and nutritious local food to cities and towns all over America.  Traditional farming in urban lots will prove a problem.  For example DC's soil is so polluted that present crops must be grown on raised beds. DC is relatively untainted by big heavy industry.  What about the rust belt?   Our model requires no soil, or fertilizer at all.  This piece from The Smart Planet Blog makes the point, that using urban agriculture cities could become self sufficient, without reliance on Agribiz or commercial fertilizer.

    Could cities rely 100% on urban agriculture for their food ...
    A recent study finds that cities could use vacant lots, rooftops, and backyards for urban agriculture to become self-reliant in basic food needs.
    Publish Date: 09/13/2011 21:38
    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/cities/could-cities-rely-100-on-urban-agriculture-for-their-food/915

    Urban Aquaponic Farming:  The ANSWER to Many Problems.
    Urban Aquaponic Farming is enormously productive and it produces both protein AND carbohydrates. Our company employs aquaponics, a combination of intensive aquaculture and hydroponics to grow different varieties of seafood and vegetables.  Our business model includes distributive production with small local operating units. In consumer terms this means a wide choice of fresh local food options in both vegetables and seafood.   The resulting diversity in product mix gives us the flexibility to be responsive to local and regional consumer demand


    The new mayor of Chicago thinks so and Detroit, and Baltimore, and many, many, others.  It's time to take off the blinders and see that Urban Farming, Aquaponics, and The Family Fish Farm Network can bring new green industry, provide needed jobs, save precious fresh water, cust the cost of food transport, and eliminate farm source pollution.  Let's do this folks ... go to our Facebook page (like and/or subscribe)  We also Twitter @famfishfarms

    Emanuel: Turn Eyesores Into Urban Farms « CBS Chicago
    Green acres could be sprouting up all over the city of Chicago if Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his way.
    Publish Date: 07/26/2011 14:55
    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/07/26/emanuel-turn-eyesores-into-urban-farms/

    Stay tuned for more on this and watch our website: www.thefamilyfishfarmnetwork.com for more information on this critical development in Urban Agriculture.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    Urban Aquaponic Farms - NEW Green Jobs


    Will Aquaponics and Urban Farms Yield a Green Job Harvest?

    By Charles Redell

    Published September 16, 2011

    "In addition to Green jobs, The Family Fish Farms Network will generate revenue back to the communities and neighborhoods where it is so desperately needed." - FFF

    In the wake of President Obama's jobs speech last week, the national conversation is intently focused on growing jobs -- and particularly green jobs -- in the weak economy.

    This week, we saw a new twist on green jobs, and one that promises something of a Holy Grail of sustainability: Creating jobs to grow sustainable food products at an economically viable scale that will be consumed in the local foodshed.

    That's the pitch from the Recirculating Farms Coalition (RFC), which launched earlier this week. The group says the type of farms and farming it promotes can achieve those goals and more, including urban job creation.

    The coalition is promoting sustainable, closed-loop farms that grow local, fresh food and, it says, create green jobs using clean, recycled water in place of soil. The farms can produce plants, fish, or a combination of both -- a method called aquaponics. In its first year, the group aims to increase public awareness of recirculating farms and their benefits, help develop better technology and approaches for the 30-year old practice and work with policy makers to make it easier for new farms to start operations.

    Recirculating farms reuse as much as 99 percent of their own water and recycle organic waste from fish into nutrients for other crops. They are endlessly customizable so can be placed in just about any underused, or otherwise unwanted urban environment, according to the Coalition's executive director Marianne Cufone.

    "These farms are scalable," she said, speaking after touring one covering just 1/20th of an acre located behind a strip mall in Orlando, Fla. "I've seen some the size of a desktop growing herbs and goldfish and I've seen ones covering acres and acres."

    rooftop farm

    Bail and mint growing in towers on the rooftop of Bell Book and Candle restaurant in the West Village (Manhattan), New York.


    The crops grown on recirculating farms can vary widely. On the small Florida farm she'd just seen, Cufone said lettuce and herbs were being grown alongside Tillapia. Other farms grow produce like tomatoes and eggplants and a variety of higher-end fish stocks. Bail and mint growing in towers on the rooftop of Bell Book and Candle restaurant in the West Village (Manhattan), New York.

    Urban farms are taking off across the country. Will Allen, whose Growing Power farm is a model of green urban farming discussed the "good food revolution" on GreenBiz.com in 2009, and Leanne Tobias profiled the rise of urban farming this summer.

    One of the biggest hurdles for commercial recirculating farms is permitting. Some jurisdictions view them as labs while others view them as traditional agriculture operations, Cufone says. Neither one fits the bill, so RFC is working to change permitting and to develop a checklist for potential operations to help smooth the permitting and inspection process.

    On the federal level, RFC aims to convince elected representatives and government agencies [PDF] that recirculating farms are economically better, safer environmentally and healthier than ocean-based aquaculture.

    From a sustainability perspective as well as an economic perspective, advocates of recirculating farms have some strong numbers to back them up.

    While Cufone wasn't able to give me an ROI on an aquaponics system, the manufacturer of a home-based aquaponics kit conducted a study [PDF] that found they can pay for themselves in 2.5 years. And taking the raw production numbers from one well established farm, commercial-sized farm shows what kinds of returns might be possible.

    The farm, which has been operating at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) for the last 20 years, costs $40,000 annually to operate its four fish tanks and six 100-foot vegetable beds. It produces 1,400 cases of leaf lettuce and 11,000 pounds of fish annually. Just using back-of-the-envelope calculations based on food prices at Safeway.com, that's at least $99,000 in retail value of fish (if it's tilapia) and almost $73,000 in lettuce (if it's romaine lettuce, at 18 heads per case).

    Financially, a farm like this earns its keep, and environmentally, the story is much the same. The UVI aquaponics farm produces all that food while using just shy of 19,000 gallons of water. One head of lettuce produced there requires about 7.5 gallons of water. On a traditional farm, it would need just shy of 16 gallons to grow, according to RFC.

    The job-creation potential of recirculating farms, which RFC is promoting, is a bit muddier. The idea is to "go back to where we once were," Cufone said. "We used to farm and grow food for ourselves and maybe for our neighbors who were good at other things. We're moving back to creating our own jobs."

    Photos courtesy of the Recirculating Farms Coaltion.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    New Coalition Will Give us a National and Global Voice


    This is a new organization designed to support the aquaponics and hydroponics urban farming and local food movement.  We should all support Marianne Cufone in this wonderful and supportive effort to bring awareness and credibility to our New Green Industry and the local food movement.  Local food is fresh, full of heathy nutrition lost in long transport times, and free of harmful additives... this is the Future of Food!

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 15, 2011
    New Orleans, LA - Today, a new organization, the Recirculating Farms Coalition, is officially launching a national campaign to promote growing local, fresh food and create green jobs. Its focus is on eco-friendly farms that use clean, recycled water in place of soil to grow plants (hydroponics), fish (aquaculture), or a combination of both plants and fish (aquaponics). The new collaborative brings together educators, farmers, chefs, non-profit organizations and many others who are working to create an accessible, sustainable and healthy food system in the United States.  This is their official press release announcement
    Marianne Cufone, Executive Director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition, said, "The current U.S. unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, and about one in six people are struggling to buy food. Building recirculating farms in diverse communities nationwide can provide fresh, local food and create stable jobs in a sustainable business, two things the U.S. very much needs right now."
    Recirculating farms use innovative ways to be space, energy, and water efficient. They can be as small as a desktop for personal use, or large enough for commercial operation. Well-designed farms re-use up to 99% of their water, and recycle waste. They can run without antibiotics, or other drugs and chemicals, and use renewable energy. Recirculating farms can grow fish, vegetables, flowers, fruits, herbs and more.
    "I have been developing and using water reuse, recirculating systems for almost 15 years to produce food responsibly in urban settings." said Dr. Martin Schreibman, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biology at CUNY's Brooklyn College and the founder and Director Emeritus of their Aquatic Research and Environmental Assessment Center. "People are just recognizing the many incredible advantages of these systems as a novel method of farming. Now, we are joining together with others - farmers, chefs, fishermen and a new wave of aware students - in this coalition to highlight the benefits of using clean recycled water, without soil, to grow food locally, virtually anywhere, year-round. This is very significant."
    The Recirculating Farms Coalition was created to be a hub for farmers, policy and law makers and consumers; a way to make connections, learn and join together in supporting recirculating farms. The organization also plans to provide training for farmers, build a model farm for teaching and demonstration and actively engage the public on recirculating farming issues.
    Cufone explained, "The United States is in one of its worst economic situations ever. We need change, now. Building recirculating farms will help address the food and job crises by empowering communities to create new jobs growing their own food, in a way that is healthy for both us and our planet.
     The Recirculating Farms Coalition is a collaborative group of farmers, educators, non-profit organizations and many others committed to building local sources of healthy, accessible food. Through research, education and advocacy, we work together to support the development of energy efficient farms that use clean recycled water to grow food. We believe that these recirculating farms can create stable green jobs and supply sustainably-grown plants, fruits, vegetables, and humanely-raised seafood in diverse communities nationwide, and someday, worldwide. See: http://www.recirculatingfarms.org The Recirculating Farms Coalition is headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana.