Pennock Family Farms

Berthoud, Colorado

This aquaponic farm was a unique project from the start. The owners are 3rd generation farmers raising angus cattle and barley for Coors brewery. The farm also has two 500′ long turkey barns that previously raised over 270,000 turkeys annually! The owners decided to convert a 100′ section of the turkey barn into a greenhouse by tearing off the roof and installing polycarbonate glazing material.  Admittedly we were a little skeptical upon our first site visit. The building was dusty with a dirt floor and no HVAC systems. However, it didn’t take long for the Pennocks to convert the building into a beautiful growing environment. They were able to install the glazing material, ventilation fans and their own evaporative cooling wall. The dirt floor was covered with a durable landscape fabric and before we knew it they were ready to build an aquaponic system.

The goal for the farm is to provide food for their family, sell product to the local community, donate to charitable organizations and the compost from the aquaponic system is fed to the cattle. The other main goal is to educate youth farmers from the Future Farmers of America organization. The Pennocks expressed a need to provide farming opportunities to young, upandcoming farmers through FFA. He explained that becoming a farmer today can be extremely difficult due to high capital costs. Ex: Land, equipment, livestock. The Pennocks will be teaching water based, controlled environment agriculture to new, young farmers as an alternative to traditional land-based farming  

The system is about half the size of the standard 30 x 96 Flourish Farm. Two 300 gallon tanks are plumbed to a central sump. The main pump draws water off of the “fish sump” and runs water continuously through an Endurance 4000 auto-backwashing filtration system. The system has a dual sump configuration and is setup to run in coupled or decoupled mode. This allows for the fish system to operate independently of the plant system or the two sumps can be connected together. An offline mineralization tank was also added which is plumbed directly into the plant sump for on-demand nutrient boosts. The plant side of the system includes a 8′ x 72′ Growasis Modular Elevated DWC trough, a 2 x 20′ transplanting trough and a two deck nursery system for seedlings and microgreens. There are also 8 Aquabundance media beds for their fruiting crops such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

The Pennocks were students of the Flourish Farm Aquaponic Course. In our interview they explained that the aquaponics system is really easy to operate. The RAS filtration is easy, clean and effective. The DWC is easy to operate with high output at waist height making transplanting and harvesting much more comfortable. They described the work as rewarding, easy, and relaxing.