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Char and salmon stocked in ground-breaking aquaponics site

Rob Fletcher
Rob Fletcher
05 June 2017, at 12:00am

One of the largest commercial aquaponics facilities in the world, which has the capacity to grow 125 metric tons of salmon and Arctic char and 200 metric tons of organic fresh greens annually, has now been opened in St Paul, Minnesota.

The 87,000-square-foot facility is a collaboration between Pentair, a global leader in sustainable water solutions, and aquaponics farming innovator Urban Organics. Production at Urban Organics is now underway, and the farm is expected to be at full capacity in early 2018. Fully certified by the USDA as an organic produce farm, Urban Organics is growing sustainably-raised Atlantic salmon and char alongside a variety of fresh greens, including kale, arugula (rocket), bok choy, green and red romaine, Swiss chard, and green and red leaf lettuce.

“The world’s population is growing, and with it, the demand for fish protein is quickly surpassing sustainable natural fish production. Pentair’s aquaculture and aquaponics solutions are expanding farming techniques, including in urban areas, and supporting greater access to protein worldwide,” said Karl Frykman, President, Pentair Water. “We joined forces with Urban Organics to help accelerate the development of large-scale modern aquaponics as we believe it can provide a real commercial option to help solve this growing food dilemma.”

With advanced water filtration technology developed by Pentair, the system is designed to allow Urban Organics to decouple the fish water from the plant water. This allows Urban Organics to raise fish species in cold water with low nutrient levels, alongside plant species in warm water with high nutrient levels. Waste nutrients from the fish water is concentrated and delivered to the plant water. Additionally, the system was designed for cold-water fish to take advantage of the colder climate in Minnesota, and therefore operate more energy efficiently. LED lighting is also being used to further reduce the farm’s energy use.

“Our collaboration with Pentair has helped us achieve our vision of creating a new model for urban agriculture that ensures access to healthy foods, while using less than two percent of the water consumed by traditional agriculture,” said David Haider, Co-founder of Urban Organics. “Our local market will get the benefit of our fish and greens, but there will also be a worldwide benefit as we continue to learn from this model and apply its lessons to other locations in the future.”

Urban Organics is distributing its fish and produce at regional supermarkets, co-ops and restaurants. And, in a first-of-its-kind partnership in Minnesota, Urban Organics is working with HealthPartners hospitals and clinics to put its fresh greens in patient meals, cafeteria salad bars, and retail take-out locations.

Pentair and Urban Organics first started working together when Urban Organics opened its inaugural aquaponics farm in 2014 in the former Hamm’s brewery building in St Paul. Pentair, with its innovative technologies in water systems and solutions and biological and technical expertise, worked closely with Urban Organics to design, install and engineer the world-class system.