Growing Together Aquaponics/North Country Brewing
Slippery Rock, PA
The mission of Growing Together Aquaponics is to use the science and technology of aquaponic systems to provide pre-employment transition services to students with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, along with students without disabilities. The group is partnered with North Country Brewery and Slippery Rock University.
After attending the 4-Day Flourish Farming Course, Growing Together Aquaponics approached The Aquaponic Source to design and install a custom aquaponic system. The organization needed an aquaponic system to provide fresh veggies and fish to local restaurants, and to use as training platforms for their program. This unique aquaponic project actually consists of two distinct systems, both located in the North Country Brewery canning facility in Slippery Rock, PA.
The first system (installed in October 2019) was custom designed for an elevated deck located above the brewery’s taproom. During the design phase, an emphasis was put on maximizing production for the space, growing a diverse range of crops, and being able to closely monitor and control all aspects of the aquaponic system. An emphasis was put on leafy greens, kale, microgreens, and fruiting crops.
A decoupled aquaponic system was created utilizing automated bead filtration technology and a dual-sump design. The plant system makes use of media beds, deep water culture raft beds, decoupled AutoPot buckets and a six-tier vertical NFT system to produce starts, microgreens, and more. Due to the indoor location of the project, a high output full-spectrum LED lighting system was customized for the project to create optimal growing conditions for the plants. The lighting system uses ARC 600 LED lights mounted on LightRail robotic moving systems. Low-profile LED strip lights are used for the 6-tier NFT system. Patrons at North Country Brewing are greeted by this “showcase” system, and is one of the main attractions of the brewery.
After the completion of the first aquaponic system, in early 2020 The Aquaponic Source was contacted again to redesign an existing aquaponic system installed at the brewery a few years ago. The system in question was having problems with low crop yields, nutrient deficiencies, and a backup of fish solids in the system. After consulting on and redesigning the system, our team was able to reuse all major components and modernize the old system. The system was rebuilt in a decoupled format using an automated bead filter to handle solids from the fish. An additional fish tank was added to deal with nutrient deficiency issues, and all grow beds were elevated to provide adequate drainage and create a more efficient working space for students. The previous clarifier tank was repurposed as a mineralization system, further breaking down fish waste and providing an added nutrient boost to the system. The system produces crops in a large media bed, a large deep water culture raft bed, and a 4-tier NFT system.
The team at Growing Together Aquaponics was great to work with, and we’re looking forward to seeing their progress as they grow and expand into the future.