Reintroducing aquaponics | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | January 5, 2018 5:00 pm
Last Updated: January 3, 2018 at 10:15 am
Cathy Nelson’s STEAM Works Farm is introducing aquaponics to South Carolina.
Actually her effort is reintroducing, not introducing aquaponics to the state. No one is doing aquaponics locally at the moment.
Though her research Nelson, who has a Native American heritage, explained to the judges, she determined that aquaponics “is part of our ancestral heritage.”
“No one is doing aquaponics locally at the moment,” Nelson said. “I had to fly to Portland, Ore. to learn about it.”
Aquaponics is a mixture of aquaculture and hydroponics. In hydroponics, water is the growing medium for the plants. In aquaculture, fish and other food living in the water are raised in a controlled environment.
After her trip to the west coast, Nelson said, “I came home and built an aquaponics greenhouse.”
An aquaponics produces more food in less space, in less time, allowing more food to go to market, Nelson explained. Having it contained in a greenhouse, she added, allows for all year growing.
As part of her research and development, she and her family members grew tilapia, tomatoes and lettuce last year. She used the food to feed her family and shared it with Colleton County’s Native American community.
She told the judges that that distribution met the goal of providing the underserved with locally grown, healthy produce, pointing out that 24 percent of America’s Native Americans live below the poverty line.
“Now we are ready to go ahead and expand operations,” Nelson said.
She sought the seed money provided to the winner of the Feeding Innovations competition, to expand her aquaponics work through the construction of a second greenhouse that would allow her to go into mass production.
If the seed money had been provided, Nelson said the plan was “to grow salad greens, lettuces, tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, green beans, root crops and squash to start with.”
STEAM Works Farm, she added, would find a market for their produce at farmers markets, through direct sales to restaurant and grocers, by undertaking a Community Supported Agriculture distribution.
The initial purpose of the fish living in the aquaponics greenhouse would be to fertilize the organic garden. They would also be sold. Even the nutrient rich water could be marketed.
STEAM Works Farm is a working farm to teach, Nelson said, the goal is to improve the health of the community in three ways: food production, education and food distribution.
Once in mass production, Nelson suggested that by the third year she would be able to charge a fee to conduct seminars on aquaponics.