Below is a blog post by JD’s wife and business partner, Tawnya Sawyer, about the evolution of the GrowHaus system and their aspirations for the future. Please read on…
What makes you passionate about aquaponics? I’m sure an answer (or many) jumped to mind, from conserving water, to abundant nutritious food, the fish greeting you each morning or the empowering feeling of growing your own food. We love all of those things too, but what makes us passionate about aquaponics is being able to share it with other people. Just like sharing your pictures, stories and dialogs through the aquaponics community, sharing aquaponics with a group of people in person is engaging and energizing. Beyond sharing the concept of aquaponics, it is sharing the food and the opportunity to educate others that is most fulfilling. We feel passionate that community aquaponics is an important part of local, sustainable, and more nutritious food for everyone.
To fulfill that mission, we are building a community aquaponics system at the GrowHaus, an urban farm and marketplace in an underserved area of Northwest Denver. In keeping with the community theme, we chose to launch a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. We want to engage the virtual community to improve a local community and help a vision come to life, growing food in a “Food Desert”, and growing minds by educating people about the possibilities that exist for more sustainable food production.
In Oct 2009, JD and I read an article in the Denver Post newspaper about a dilapidated greenhouse that a community group was renovating to grow food for the neighborhood using aquaponics. That article inspired our small startup family business, and since then Colorado Aquaponics has been working with the GrowHaus staff, volunteers and community members. Together we have built several demonstration aquaponics systems growing a wide variety of fresh vegetables, as well as tilapia, bluegill, koi and at one point last winter some very tasty rainbow trout. These systems have proven their potential to grow food, provided extensive educational opportunities for hundreds of people, and been a source of interest for visitors from all over the world who are looking to create sustainable food production methods in their own communities.
The vision has now come full circle and the building renovations at GrowHaus are almost complete. Installation is underway for the commercial scale aquaponics system which is projected to grow 40,000 heads of the freshest salad and cooking greens, culinary herbs and nutrient rich vegetables as well as 1,500lbs of fish annually. The system design has been meticulously planned and prepared by JD Sawyer of Colorado Aquaponics. It is a hybrid system incorporating media beds, deep water culture, vertical growing, and renewable energy systems.
Once completed the community based, commercial scale aquaponics system will:
- Provide nutritious, high quality food to the neighborhood community through the GrowHaus marketplace
- Pay for the operating expenses and green job opportunities through food sales to local upscale restaurants
- Educate people about aquaponics for personal, school, community and commercial scale food production
- Establish a reproducible model that can be implemented for community centers, schools, places of worship, housing developments, correctional facilities, retirement homes and similar installations in urban, rural or village settings
So here is where all of the people in this community truly passionate about aquaponics can make a big difference to a local Denver community whose access to food is a convenience store and fast food restaurant. Having eaten a $15 salad (of unknown origin) in an airport recently, I thought of how many chemical free aquaponics salads could be grown and served for that same $15. This is why we remain focused on building an aquaponics system to share with a community. Seeing kids learning about where their food comes from and how to make healthy choices; seeing people from drought prone parts of the world believe that there are possibilities; seeing the changes in people when they have the option to purchase fresh food over packaged and processed foods, that is what gets everyone excited. You are already part of the solution by taking charge of your own food production. Now, we can help others do the same.
To read the original Denver Post Article about the vision of GrowHaus, click here
To view the CBS news story about the startup of Colorado Aquaponics and the GrowHaus, click here
To see the system in action, please visit the GrowHaus during farm tours every Friday from 10-noon