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Growing Fish and Produce Together

EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon is home to the largest aquaponics farm in the country.

The Farming Fish started with a lot of conversations. The farm’s three partners spent years researching their idea.

“It’s the marriage of aquaculture–raising fish for food with hydroponics–which is raising produce or plants in water; so when you combine those two, you have aquaponics,” said Michael Hasey, The Farming Fish Partner.

Then they had to find the perfect property. They landed outside Wimer.

“Aquaponics is our center piece, so we grow a lot of aquaponic lettuce, herbs and now our aquaponic tilapia fish,” said Olivia Hittner, The Farming Fish Partner.

Here’s how it works: The fish eat and make waste. Bacteria in the six tanks convert the waste into a fertilizer for the plants, which float at the top.

The farming fish partners say aquaponics conserves water, soil and space. In fact, they say one square foot of water in their tanks can produce 35,000 pounds of tilapia fillets in a year.

Of course, for all its benefits, there are limitations.

“Not everything is designed to be grown in a system like this. For instance, those sweet potatoes we were harvesting, before I would never dream of trying to grow those right in the water,” Hasey said.

Never dream of having your own aquaponic garden? Local experts say it’s not that wild an idea.

“Especially being in Lane County, more people are aware of what they eat, being sustainable,” said Ryan Stanley, Oregon’s Constant Gardener Co-Owner.

Stanley says more customers are coming in curious about putting together an aquaponic setup.

“Most people who have an aquarium can pretty much grow food year-round. All you need is a system, a grow light and you can have any type of garden year-round,” Stanley said.

You can find almost all of the tools you’ll need there.

“We have have everything from the grow light, usually plant starts, the hydroponic material, then the tray. Pretty much, everything besides the fish, we have for sale,” Stanley said.

It’s a simple process that will turn Goldy the goldfish into Goldy the gardener.

“It’s a food production mechanism that produces good quality food with less resources and what more can you ask for?” Hittner said.

As for the fish, if you’re just going to use a normal aquarium, you can stock it with any freshwater fish.

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  1. Eugene Native says:

    Does the fish waste contaminate the produce? Seems like leafy vegetables would be at higher risk of retaining contamination.

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