A teacher and a businessman start aquaponics co-op in Florida
February 27, 2014
By Matt Jones
At Traders Hill, just south of the Georgia-Florida border, an aquaponics cooperative is evolving under the tutelage of executive director, Angela TenBroeck. She started Traders Hill Farms and the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Excellence and Conservation non-profit a little over a year ago.
The project is a joint-venture for TenBroeck and Richard and Delores Blaudow. Blaudow, chairman and CEO of the Advanced Technology Services Company of Illinois, bought the 100-acre farm on the St. Marys River in Florida’s Nassau County.
The project has converted a chicken barn into a home for tilapia and lettuce. The barn measures about 122m (400 ft) long and 11m (37 ft) wide, with numbers of fish tanks of various sizes, a moving bed bioreactor to help clean the water, and a projected 20,000 holes for plant holders in styrofoam platforms.
Apparently there are close to 300 similar sized chicken barns (formerly owned by Tyson) scattered through approximately 90 farms along 80 kms (50 miles) of Highway 121. Tenbroeck hopes to draw as many as possible of these into the aquaponics co-op – by demonstrating the viability and potential. The plan is to assist farms entering the aquaponics business.
At Traders Hill TenBroeck has installed several medium to large-size shallow tanks about 30-45cm (12-18 in) deep, including some that will soon receive their first broodstock. These broodstock will supply farmers going into the program with fingerlings as well as somewhat larger fish so that they’re able to sell fish and vegetables within a few months. To support itself, the centre will sell its own product – hopefully at a rate of about 454kg (1,000 lbs) of fish and 180kg (400 lbs) of vegetables a month.
Tenbroeck said they’ve been busy – cleaning the chicken barns, looking after fish and vegetables and working on marketing and sales programs and business plans that can be passed to the new aquaponic farmers.
TenBroeck, a former teacher, has embraced the educational opportunity and local schools are tapping into the program. The co-op would like to assist students study aquaculture at college.
– Quentin Dodd