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 – They had a vision to build an aquaponics farm and provide food for the Vail Valley region, but rather than jump right into a big farm they started a small home system to be able to learn the basics of aquaponics while they developed their larger plans.
Education and Planning – Their next step was to take our aquaponic farming and business course which taught them how to move from hobby scale to running a profitable aquaponics farm. A year after taking the course, they contacted us and were ready to take the next step. During this time they had been developing budgets, working with greenhouse companies and contractors, speaking with local markets and chefs and developing their overall business and marketing 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 and the plan was to have a 40 x 80 greenhouse dedicated to the plant environment and a separate barn attached to the north for the fish house, cold storage, and processing.
Our role was to design a farm to best fit their goals, space, and budget in order to give them the most production and efficiency possible. We designed three 8 x 62’ deep water culture troughs which were complemented by the elevated transplanting trough and nursery system located along the north side of the greenhouse.The production of these troughs is expected to be between 800 to 1,000 heads a week. 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 product just two months afterward as they ran the plant system hydroponically in order to get started right away. 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!