Tag: aquaponics

Blue Ridge Aquaculture

Widening The Net: World’s Largest Sustainable Indoor Fishery Eyes Aquaponics

Blue Ridge AquacultureAs we gear up for the new CEA Summit East next month, we’re excited to spotlight exhibitor and sponsor Martinsville, Virgina-based Blue Ridge Aquaculture, the world’s largest sustainable indoor fishery. We had the chance to catch up with company President Martin Gardner in this month’s Q & A to learn more about Blue Ridge Aquaculture’s sustainable business model, practices, and plans to incorporate aquaponics into its operations in the future.

Blue Ridge Aquaculture is described as the “world’s largest sustainable indoor fisheries.” Can you share more about your recirculating aquaculture systems and your sustainable features and practices

Blue Ridge Aquaculture (BRA) was founded by Bill Martin on the idea that controlling the entire farming environment was the logical evolution of aquaculture.  He formed the company in 1993, and has grown it to its current production of 5mm pounds per year. As far as we know, that is the largest production volume from these types of systems.  The company raises tilapia from hatch to harvest, all contained in indoor farming systems, or Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS).

The US lags far behind many other countries in the aquaculture production, currently ranking 17th in total output.  The US is not competitive for several reasons, including but not limited to stringent environmental regulations, NIMBY attitudes, and high labor costs, all of which are solved by RAS.  Bringing the entire process into a controlled environment, we manage all inputs and outflows from our operations.  With much better bio-security, we have not had an outbreak or disease event in twenty years.  In fact, we have been certified disease free by independent fish veterinarians every year since 2013.

We are able to accomplish this without the use of antibiotics, vaccines or hormones, and still maintain survival rates above 95%.  Our filtration systems recycle approximately 75% of our water daily, and we are working on a secondary filtration system that will drive those rates to +95%.  We don’t discharge our effluent to our local environment, all of it goes to the municipal system for further treatment.  From a land-use perspective, it would require at least 300 acres of open aquaculture ponds to produce what we raise on a 15 acre campus.  Because most of the seafood consumed in the US is imported (+90%), our US operations greatly reduce food-miles.  These are just some of the sustainable benefits of our system.

We understand you’re exploring expansion into aquaponics – can you share more about your plans

Aquaponics - Blue Ridge AquacultureAquaponics is an obvious extension of our current operations, and we have been working towards adding this component to our operations for some time. We have performed several small-scale R&D projects over the years, with favorable results.

But, with limited resources, we had to prioritize other capital projects, including a new feed mill commissioned in 2018, and a new RAS Nursery in 2021.  With those projects complete, we can now focus on aquaponics.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR)  and Indoor Ag-Con are excited to have Blue Ridge Aquaculture join us as a silver sponsor for the upcoming CEA Summit.  Can you share a little more about what you hope to achieve at the event?

Blue Ridge AquacultureBlue Ridge Aquaculture has a long history in the US Aquaculture and the global RAS community.  It is important for us to build that same presence in this industry.  We will continue to support Virginia as a leader in CEA and AgTech.  Virginia Tech has been a tremendous resource for our company assisting our growth and development over the years.  We anticipate Virginia Tech and the IALR will be an important asset as we grow into  this space as well.  Because of that collaboration, it was important for us to support their outreach efforts and this conference.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

It’s important to point out the importance of vertical integration in our company.  BRA has positioned itself as the most integrated RAS company in the world.  Originally this was out of necessity.  In the early years, RAS was more of an academic practice with few commercial operations.  Suppliers of inputs to the farm were focused on open system aquaculture, and did not provide the quality necessary for RAS.

The company originally sourced fingerlings from external suppliers, which were of average quality and more importantly, a vector for disease.  In 1997, the company started its own hatchery/nursery.  The positive impacts were immediate, and production volumes grew quickly.  That was also the beginning of the company’s genetic program, which is currently in its 20th generation, and a key factor in the company’s success.  Distribution was also a problem and risk for the company.

So in 2003, the company created a wholly owned subsidiary for the dedicated delivery of all of its product-  problems solved.  In 2017, the company built its own feed mill to control the quality and supply of feed for all operations.  That gave us control over our biggest operating input.

We understand that “sustainable” refers to environmental and social aspects of the operations.  But financial sustainability must be a part of the business plan.  BRA is one of the few RAS companies that has sustained profitability for many years.  Vertical integration has been key to this success, but, more importantly, de-risks our operations to ensure it remains financially sustainable into the future.

To learn more about Blue Ridge Aquaculture, visit the company website here.   And, make plans now to just us at the inaugural CEA Summit East, October 24-25, 2022.  The event is produced by Indoor Ag-Con and the Controlled Environment Agriculture Innovation Center, a partnership between the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech , the Virginia Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Virginia Tech and the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR). 

 

“Cultivating the Future” | 2020 Aquaponics Conference

Indoor Ag-Con News About 2020 Aquaponics Association Industry AlllyIndoor Ag-Con is pleased to share event and industry updates from our marketing |media industry allies like the Aquaponics Association. We wanted to share details of its upcoming 2020 Aquaponics Conference. Themed “Cultivating the Future” | the 2020 Aquaponics Conference is scheduled for October 16-18, 2020.  This comprehensive online event is packed with sessions, virtual tours, networking opportunities and more. Wherever you are in your aquaponics journey, there is a community for you at this event.  You’ll have the chance to engage with industry professionals and grow your aquaponics skills.

The Conference has 4 learning tracks with sessions from 50+ top-notch speakers:

Commercial Aquaponics — Experienced aquaponic growers can help you understand more about what it means to run a commercial facility in today’s climate

STEM Educators — Learn how to dynamically engage with your students using STEM principals by engaging with nature through aquaponics.

Research — Discover what is happening in the academic world with aquaponics and how it will affect the next generation of farming.

Community Aquaponics — Growing food for your family or learning how to do your first system?  Connect with people who are all doing the same thing.

In addition to conference sessions, attendees will also have access to the Aquaponics Virtual Showroom.  Here you’ll be able to explore featuring the best products and services in the aquaponics industry.  You’ll also have access to great networking opportunities.  Among them, direct messaging, chat rooms, live polls from presenters, and a  virtual cocktail hour.  What’s more, don’t miss your to chance to ask live questions to aquaponics experts from around the world and more!

To learn more about the 2020 Aquaponics Conference, including the  full schedule and  registration rates visit the 2020 Aquaponics Conference site

About The Aquaponics Association 

The mission of the Aquaponics Association is to promote the benefits of aquaponics through education and outreach.

The primary goals and/or vision of this association are as  follows:

  1. Promote the benefits of aquaponic growing;
  2. Educate the general consumer and food safety officials about the inherent safety of food grown through aquaponics.
  3. Dispel myths and rumors about food grown through aquaponics.

The vision for this organization is that it will create educational materials.  It will also  facilitate an aquaponic speaker’s bureau and act as a resource or liaison to the press. Eventually it could also possibly offer legal and insurance assistance. It also hopes to offer standards and certification for our rapidly growing commercial aquaponic industry.

Coronavirus Shows the Importance of Local, Efficient Agriculture — Aquaponics Association Guest Post

Coronavirus Shows The Importance Of Local, Efficient Agriculture 

Guest post by Brian Filipowich, Chairman, Aquaponics Association-
Photo Courtesy of University of the District of Colombia Aquaponic System
Aquaponic system at the University of the District of Columbia

The coronavirus outbreak is already disrupting international travel and trade. The pandemic could impact the global food supply chain and leave some populations without adequate nutrition.

This pandemic shows that we need to invest in local agriculture to boost our supply of local, reliable food. Aquaponics, hydroponics, and controlled-environment agriculture can produce large amounts of food with minimal space and resources. These water-based growing methods do not require soil and can be practiced from arid deserts to urban rooftops.

Hidden Cost of the Global Food Supply Chain

Our modern food system involves long travel distances and several steps along the supply chain. The average head of lettuce in the U.S. travels approximately 1,500 miles. Over 90% of our seafood is imported.

The coronavirus is exposing one major hidden cost of our global system: it is at risk from disruptions like pandemics, extreme weather events, military events, and economic or political upheavals. As the climate changes, these extreme events are more likely.

How does this hidden cost of the global food supply chain manifest itself?

An american consumer can find similar prices for a tomato grown 100 miles away and a tomato grown in another country 2,000 miles away. But during a global travel ban or category 5 hurricane, your local tomato will still be there. How do we account for this benefit during the good times, so that there are enough local growers to support us during possible disruptions?

Aquaponics, Hydroponics, and Controlled-Environment Agriculture

The problem is that with a changing climate, water shortages, and growing population, there is less land to grow for more people. Deserts, freezing climates, and urban areas do not have the arable soil to grow a meaningful amount of their own food to achieve food security.

Aquaponics is a food production method integrating fish and plants in a closed, soil-less system. This symbiotic relationship mimics the biological cycles found in nature. Benefits include dramatically less water use; no toxic chemical fertilizers or pesticides; and no agriculture discharge to air, water or soil.

Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water-based systems with externally supplied nutrients.

Controlled-Environment Agriculture (CEA) is the practice of raising crops in a protected, optimal environment like a greenhouse.

These growing methods maximize the amount of crops that can be produced per square area per year. Plants can be grown densely and quickly because conditions are ideal and roots are delivered exactly what they need. And controlled-environments allow for year-round production.

Aquaponics brings the added benefit of fish – an efficient supply of animal protein. It takes 30 pounds of feed to produce a one-pound steak, only 2 pounds for a one-pound tilapia filet. Fish can be grown densely and indoors, compared to the large operations required for beef, pork, and poultry.

Economies across the globe must find ways to value the hidden benefits of local, efficient agriculture to encourage more local growing. There will always be another coronavirus-type event, let’s make sure we have a reliable supply of local food for it.

Read more about how coronavirus shows the  importance of local agriculture, the Aquaponics Association AND share how the outbreak is affecting your aquaponic growing here >>>

Indoor Ag-Con Industry Partner Aquaponics Association