Saturday, July 26, 2014

Aquaponics (Part 1): A Former Brewery in St. Paul Produces Organic Swiss Chard, Cilantro

Photo: Urban Organics
The concept is simple. Local equals fresh. Fresh equals nutritious. Nutritious equals healthy, for people and community. -Urban Organics

The multi-story building in St. Paul, MN, once produced the iconic Hamm's beer. This was the original location where Hamm's was produced for generations, but was abandoned in 1997 and sat in disrepair for years. The City of St. Paul, which acquired the site in 2001, sold the site to four investors, who are turning the former brewery into an urban aquaponics farm.

So what is aquaponics? This practice of growing produce combines aquaculture (the raising of fish) and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water)--to grow organic produce.

Photo: Urban Organics
"Modern aquaponics recycles water, a precious resource. Fish give off carbon dioxide (CO2) as they breathe. Plants take in CO2, strip the carbon to build their leaves and then release the remaining oxygen molecules. The oxygen-rich air is filtered and then blown into the water for the fish to recycle. In this symbiotic mini eco-system, wastes in one facet of the system are utilized as a resource in another," said the online news site Natural Awakenings.

 “Aquaponics is the ideal answer to a fish farmer’s problem of disposing of nutrient-rich water and a hydroponic grower’s need for nutrient-rich water,” said Rebecca Nelson,co-founder of  the Wisconsin-based Nelson & Pade, one of the country's original commercial aquaponics operations.

The Urban Organics farm in St. Paul, which started operations this year, is already producing kale, Swiss chard, Italian parsley, cilantro and other orgranic edible plants.

The brewery building was an ideal location to set up this operation. "Urban Organics' co-founders--Fred Haberman, Chris Ames, Dave Haider and Kristen Haider--were drawn to the location for the same reason Hamm's was: its water. The naturally occurring wells at the site provide their operation with a free source of water, the essential ingredient in aquaponics. And most of the water is recycled," said an article in

With its limited production, Urban organics is already supplying organic greens to a couple of local grocery stories in the Twin Cities. The farm--which is in the process of developing the entire six-story building--expects to 720,000 pounds of greens and 150,000 pounds of fish per year.  Here is a report from KSTP- TV in the Twin Cities. 

Stay Tuned for Parts 2-4 of the Series, where we will look at the aquaponics training offered by Nelson & Pade, examine how the practice of aquaponics has taken root in southern New Mexico (Mountain View Market Cooperative) and in the inner  cities of Milwaukee and Chicago (Growing Power).  We will look at a new effort to promote the practice throughout New Mexico.

1 comment:

flame93 said...

Also check out