ButterCrunch Farms Eagle, CO

By: JD Sawyer

In the fall of 2016 we had the pleasure of building a custom aquaponics farm for Robert and Peri Berman of Eagle, CO. Robert and Peri did things right from the start and here is a little about their journey.

Starting Small

Peri and Robert had a vision to build an aquaponics farm to provide food for the Vail Valley region. Rather than jump right into a big farm they started a small home system to learn the basics of aquaponics while they developed their larger plans. We often suggest starting small in order to grow responsibly. We have seen this work over and over again. We’ve also seen many failures when people try to go too big too fast.

Education and Planning

Their next step was to take our aquaponic farming and business course. This course teaches people how to move from hobby scale to running a profitable aquaponics farm. Knowing they would need support and direction, they contacted us a year after the course to help get their project started. During this year they had been developing budgets, working with greenhouse companies, speaking with local chefs and developing their business plan. Robert, a former chef in the Vail Valley, recognized the demand and opportunity to provide high quality cooking greens, microgreens and fish to the area.

Farm Design

The farm is located on their personal property in Eagle, CO. The greenhouse is a 40 ‘ x 80’ Nexus dedicated to the plants. An attached 30’ x 30’ wood barn to the north is dedicated as the fish house, cold storage and processing room.

Our role was to design a farm to best fit their goals, space and budget. Most commercial aquaponic systems are designed based upon what the supplier wants to sell you and not what is a best fit for your environment or business plan. For the Bermans, we designed three 8 x 62’ deep water culture troughs. The production of these troughs is expected to be between 800 to 1,000 heads a week. This production level is closely correlated with the size of the elevated transplanting trough and nursery system located along the north side of the greenhouse. The nursery is a two deck system with 180 sq ft of space for both early stage seedlings and microgreens. We also included a media bed system along the north wall for additional plant production and crop diversity.

The fish system is composed of four 500 gallon tanks with a three stage filtration system. The fish system can be decoupled from the plant system so that each can run in a connected mode or independent of each other. In connected flow, water gravity flows from the fish tanks, through the filtration system and out to the DWC troughs before returning to a central sump where it is pumped back to the fish tanks.

The Business

System construction was completed in November of 2016 and Buttercrunch farms began selling their first products just two months later. They are now in their first full summer of operation and are raising Tilapia while growing beautiful heads of salanova, buttercrunch (of course!) watercress, tomatoes, and microgreens. Demand is strong and customer feedback has been exceptional. The owners intend to open up a roadside farm stand next season to offer additional products to local residents.

Congratulations to Robert and Peri at Buttercrunch Farms!

For more information and to register, visit the Flourish Farm Aquaponics Course Page