As one of the few indoor Aquaponic farms in the US, E&T Farms, run by Ed Osmun and his wife Betty, are a popular supplier of salad greens, basil, arugula and garlic for their community, selling their produce at local farmers' markets and natural foods stores.
Their system is pretty typical for a large-scale indoor setup; one room, kept fairly dark to inhibit algae growth, contains fish in tanks where they remove contaminants and add nutrients to the water just by doing their natural business, which is then cycled to the next --much brighter-- vegetation room, which contains their crops.
The fish that they are currently raising are koi and tilapia, though they soon plan to replace the tilapia with more valuable sea creatures, like freshwater prawns. The Osmun's blame an influx of cheap, Asian-grown tilapia for killing the market for these commonly-eaten fish.
To keep things natural, E&T Farms use no pesticides. Indoor systems are famous for being less susceptible to pest infestations, but for added protection, the Osmun's employ a system known as "integrated pest management" where they introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs into the garden to eliminate the bad ones. This is an incredibly effective strategy for both indoor and outdoor gardens, and leads to healthier, more delicious fruits and vegetables.
Their work with insects doesn't stop with ladybugs, either. As a side project, the Osmun's raise a colony of bees, which they transport to nearby farms to help with pollenation. This is a very important service, because wild bees seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate, and without bees crop pollination is difficult. No crops equals no food.
Betty, a retired nurse, also uses the beeswax from their colony to produce natural products like lip balm, candles and hand cream that she also sells at local farmers' markets and health stores.
Farms like E&T are the future of agriculture. More and more entrepreneurs are realizing that not only is hydroponic gardening a profitable industry, but also one that is easy on our planet. And buying locally-grown produce is a growing and meaningful trend, because of the energy that is saved from not needing to transport goods across the country, and how much more delicious food can be when it is that fresh. We love to see couples growing together, as well. It is a bonding experience that many of you are missing out on, trust us.
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Thursday, 01 December 2011