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Our Indoor Farming Experiment: A Fresh Re-Start on Our Freight Container Water Garden

If you've been following us over the past year, you may have seen our social media posts about our indoor vertical farm that we set up over the winter of 2022-2023. We grew a variety of greens in the spring and summer which we brought to the local grocery store, the farmers' market in Noëlville, and sold directly from the farm gate. Then, as our haskap berries moved into the second half of their season, we were slammed with our largest harvest yet and a busier-than-before pick your own season. We didn't have the capacity to operate the indoor farm as fully as we had hoped, and we ended up needing to perform a complete aquatic garden system clean out and restart this fall after a few other setbacks. We're learning about capacity as the farm grows alongside our family... and as we get deeper into middle age... Hopefully, a slower pace for winter, and more thorough planning this year, will give us more grace and space in the peak season of 2024.

Now, a few days into 2024, we are ready to harvest our first lettuce of the system re-start. We are really looking forward to bringing these fresh local greens to our community in the middle of winter when we are so heavily reliant on greens shipped largely from California to feed our northern families. We're excited. You can see what we have available here:

Aquaponics Announcement

We are working on running our system in the most efficient way possible; and accept that is a journey with detours and large learning curves along the way. In our case, the journey means we sometimes circle in the roundabout for a while, and aren't sure which direction to take. We can also be (stubbornly) frugal and self-reliant - values that can be both strengths and weaknesses... For this project it has meant that we designed and built the system ourselves, rather than purchasing a plug and play operation or design. We are intimately learning how the system works as we build it. We have also made design shifts along the way... necessary iterations. There are a few things we've maybe also done in reverse order as we set things up. Regardless, plants are now growing again, and the rainbow trout are doing much better than we first anticipated when we were nervous and introducing them in the late spring of 2023. We've successfully built a 2500+ gallon aquatic garden that we are learning how to manage and transition to being fully aquaponic. The lighting and heating systems are simple and very efficient, the freight container is food grade and insulated, and the fish mean we will be growing in a more ecological way than traditional hydroponics.

We really believe in the potential for indoor hydroponic vertical farming to help address issues related to northern food sovereignty and reducing the environmental impact of our food systems, community by community. We also really believe in the potential of taking hydroponics one step further into aquaponics for an even more harmonious system, where fish and plants are grown together. So what is aquaponics, anyway?

Aquaponics is a revolutionary method of farming that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soilless plant cultivation). In simpler terms, it's a system where fish and plants work together to create a mutually beneficial environment.

In an aquaponics setup, fish live in a tank, and their waste contains nutrients essential for plant growth. Instead of using soil, plants grow in a nutrient-rich water solution, which is essentially the filtered fish tank water. The beauty of this system lies in its efficiency and sustainability. As the fish produce waste, it accumulates in the water. This water is then pumped to a biological filter, where bacteria convert the fish waste into nutrients that plants can absorb. The water then travels to the plant roots and in return, the plants help purify the water by taking up these nutrients, creating a closed-loop ecosystem.

This symbiotic relationship results in faster plant growth, healthier fish, and less water consumption compared to traditional farming methods. Aquaponics offers a space-saving solution, making it possible to grow both fish and vegetables in a relatively small area, making it ideal for indoor settings in northern climates.

Beyond its efficiency, aquaponics promotes environmental sustainability. By using more natural processes and recycling water, it significantly reduces the need for external fertilizers; and lessens the environmental impact associated with conventional agriculture or traditional hydroponics.

From our perspective, aquaponics is a smart and sustainable way to grow both fish and plants, harnessing the power of nature to create a harmonious and productive ecosystem. As we seek more environmentally friendly farming methods, aquaponics stands out as a promising solution for a greener and more sustainable future.

We hope you will join us on our journey as we learn, succeed, stumble, adapt, have some fun and repeat!

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