Columbia County Discovers Aquaponics

City Councilor, Susan Conn, and City Administrator, John Walsh, of St. Helens discover the abundance of aquaponics at the Ingenuity Innovation Center.

Columbia County Discovers Aquaponics

On Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, nearly thirty people gathered from various local and state agencies and municipalities to discover what Ingenuity Innovation Center is creating.  The local gathering was inspired in response to attention that Ingenuity was receiving from Aquaponic Pioneer, Murray Hallam’s event.  Local economic developer, Chuck Daughtry and City Councilor, Susan Conn, took the lead to invite others after they had a chance to take a tour and learn what was happening on a national level with the aquaponic movement.

“It only makes sense to invite others to see what is happening here,” said Daughtry.

Prior to the meet and greet with the county, both Daughtry and Conn had a chance to connect with Bevan Suits with AquaPlanet. Suits is an industrial designed that has been heavily involved in the design, development and advocacy of aquaponics at a commercial level.  Stationed out of Atlanta, Georgia, Suits came to Oregon to work with Chemeketa and Clackamas Community Colleges to bring aquaponics to their students and faculty.  Suits learned about Ingenuity Innovation Center and immediately reached out to connect.

“I was really encouraged to see what Ingenuity Innovation Center is doing.  As an industrial designer, I have watched as many in the aquaponic field have managed to create complicated systems that ultimately become cost prohibitive and do not yield the results we know are possible.  I am very encouraged to see that Ingenuity is using the Flood and Drain system, because we know through various research studies, it is the way to grow.”

Suits has dedicated himself to following what has been evolving on the level of commercial aquaponics.  A student of Dr. Mark McMurtry who is widely acknowledged as creating the science of aquaponics in the mid 1980’s.  His method known as Integrated AquaVegaculture System (IAVS) has now become widely known as the Flood and Drain System.  His international network of partners are proving to bring incredible results because of his mission to bring various disciplines such as hydroponics, aquaculture and horticulture together to develop better practices for this emerging industry.  Suits is also a strong supporter and fan of Murray Hallam. (In fact, it was because of Suits relationship with Hallam and Ingenuity that the center was able to bring him to Oregon for September’s event.)

Members representing Portland Community College, Columbia County PUD, USDA, Food Bank and local and regional political and economic development attended along with others who had expressed a curiosity to learn about aquaponics and sustainability.  The event opened up with a presentation that was led by Suits and Co-Founder, Kate Wildrick, of Ingenuity Innovation Center.  Bob Wise with Cogan Owens Green delivered a powerful keynote that emphasized the trends in agriculture and an emphasis on local purchasing trends.  Later, Suits invited a surprise local legend and speaker, Dr. Boone Mora, to share his expreience with aquaponics. Mora worked with USDA (NRCS) representative Tim Garrett in Eastern North Carolina. They received a $100,000 government grant to develop a 10,000 square foot greenhouse using Dr McMurtry’s method. It operated successfully for 16 months and was documented by Dr Mora and affirmed by Mr Garrett as a viable and effective method. It was toured by thousands of curious visitors and its flavorful tomatoes and cucumbers were in extremely high demand at local markets.

After the presentation, a tour of the Ingenuity Innovation Center commenced.  Here, attendees had an opportunity to explore the 1,500 square foot aquaponic greenhouse and learn about sustainable energy solutions and share their discoveries and recommendations over a organic lunch.

Ultimately, more community events and discussions are expected to be planned and held here at Ingenuity Innovation Center to help further the discussion around aquaponics and local partnership projects.