Aquaponics is an Emerging Green Industry

Aquaponics is an Emerging Green Industry

The Pacific Northwest is known for its incredible biodiversity that shifts from the oceans to the high deserts.  With such broad and ever changing landscapes blossom a plethora of unique micro-cultures that shape and influence that whole feel of this one of kind consciousness that values sustainability, delectable beverages and flavorful food.  The TV show, Portlandia, has captured Portland, Oregon’s quirky yet unique culture in this popular satire parody. Every year, thousands move to the Pacific Northwest to embark on a new adventure and a higher quality of life.

This unique bioregion has a tremendous amount of resources and infrastructure making it perfect for aquaponics to emerge as the next green industry.  Already, the west coast has an incredible rich network centered around agriculture.  Orchards, farms, community supported agriculture (CSA’s), food processors and horticulture are just a few examples of what types of industry comprise this arena.   We also have a lot of resources centered around aquaculture (the growing of fish and aquatic life) as seen with local hatcheries and ocean fisheries.

As economic challenges, climate change and growing concerns over our food supply emerge, many are looking to support and develop new and innovative ways that can help establish local, viable options that create new healthy and sustainable solutions.

“From our perspective, we are watching as many are coming back to the basics,” states Kate Wildrick.  “We hear more and more about discussions around how far our food has to travel to get to our plate.  Many are beginning to question how realistic our food system is and if it actually healthy.  What we are watching is a whole community discussion emerge around food.  People are looking for options and they are no doubt excited about what aquaponics can and could do for our local food system.”

“In addition to the growing awareness around our food system, we have also observed that many young people are looking to work in agriculture,” states Aaron Imhof.  “I know that I got my start at a high school program called Green Acres.  It has since closed down which is shame.  However, it encouraged me to look into other avenues which took me into watershed restoration with an Americorp program.  I believe that a lot of people are waking up and recognizing that a lot of our institutions are failing and as a result many are looking for an alternative [lifestyle].”

“The influx of young people moving to the Pacific NW are typically forced to take advantage of the entrepreneur mindset,” states Kate.  “Working in the corporate world as a generational expert, I observed how many young people struggled to find their way into a company.  With more and more older people choosing to put off retirement – or come out if it – due to the economic downturn, it took away opportunities for younger people to get work.  Many stayed in college to weather it out, but as a result, many incurred huge amounts of debt that they may be unable to payback.  I watched as adversity brings about opportunity.  Many have set off to form their own businesses.  Given that Portland is all about small business, it has been incredible to watch how people have not only found ways to survive, but thrive.”

“Many people, young and old, who come through our center are looking for something new to get involved with,” states Rosemary Imhof.  “They want something that is fulfilling and makes a difference.  They love aquaponics because it can create high quality, organic, GMO-free food does not require back breaking labor.”

The first organic certified aquaponic facility (Friendly Aquaponics in Hawaii) was certified by Oregon Tilth.  Since then, more and more aquaponic facilities are seeking certification outside of the state.

“Overall, we believe that we can start helping people recognize that we already have an existing infrastructure and culture that can create an incredibly abundant local food solution,” states Kate.  “With Murray Hallam’s aquaponic curriculum, we now will have an incredible tool to help access funds so together we can build this new green industry.  Right now, the federal and state governments are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into new green industries and the workforce to support it.  We are moving forward to help get our own infrastructure together so we can access these resources.  It is very exciting work.  All we are doing is help connect the dots so people can come together to participate.”