Aquaponics emerging as an urban food solution

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Walker is the associate editor of Sustainable Business Oregon.

Mason Walker is the associate editor of Sustainable Business Oregon. Click through to see an educational gallery about acquaponics in action.

In January this year I wrote a blog post searching for ambitious urban agriculture projects in Oregon. While I learned of several formative groups looking for resources to get started, no operating businesses emerged.

Six months later a handful of innovative, but rural, commercial-scale projects had surfaced — groups like Community by Design and the Farmland LP fund that are employing clever methods for jumpstarting the cultivation of underutilized land in the fertile Willamette Valley.

Then in mid-June we reported on a farm in southern Oregon using aquaponics to grow their business. Aquaponics — a food-growing method that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponic plant production — has been gaining steam thanks to efficiencies inherent with closed-loop systems. In search of urban applications, I came across Portland Purple Water, a company that designs and sells rainwater catchment systems.

Purple Water founder Jason Garvey's aquaponics journey began when researching agricultural water efficiency solutions for the Oregon Environmental Council and the Oregon Sustainable Agricultural Land Trust. Garvey discovered that even well-designed irrigation systems were wasting a ton of water — his catchment technology wouldn't be able to make a meaningful impact. Frustrated with his findings, Garvey searched for methods of food production that could be helped by rain catchment.


See an aquaponics system in action >>

"Modern industrial farming is broken," said Garvey. He and business partner Scott Yelton have been holding aquaponics workshops in Portland since the start of the year. Their mission is to empower people to grow their own food and demonstrate the efficacy of raising protein in a backyard. Garvey is sold on the science, too.

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