Urban Organics, one of the nation's largest aquaponic farms, has opened for business in the former Hamm's Brewery building in St. Paul.
All six floors of the building will eventually be utilized by Urban Organics's aquaponic system and 18 3,500-gallon tilapia tanks will be scattered throughout. At peak production, the Urban Organics farming system is projected to yield 720,000 pounds of greens and 150,000 pounds of fish per year. As of now, only one floor is fully operational.
The produce -- which currently includes 100% organic certified kale, Swiss chard, Italian parsley, and cilantro -- is already being sold at select Lunds and Byerly's locations in the Twin Cities.
The floor that opened to the public on April 10 features four long rows of aquaponic plants and four fish tanks, each connected to a plant row. As onlookers move down the line, the tilapia drastically increase in size.
Fred Haberman, the co-founder and CEO of Haberman (the company behind the infamous Austin logo), is a co-founder and partner of Urban Organics.
"Our mission is to inspire a food system for the people, by the people," he said in a statement.
Urban Organics worked closely with Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems out of Schaffhausen, Switzerland to design and install the aquaponic system.
"Our expertise in water systems and solutions allows us to re-imagine fish farming in a sustainable way that provides a real commercial option to help solve this growing food dilemma, and potentially support urban growth and renewal," said Randall J. Hogan, the chairman and CEO of Pentair.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture, the production of aquatic animals, with hydroponics, the practice of growing plants in water, in a closed-loop system. The plants receive water from the fish tanks, which they break down into healthy nitrates and nitrites they use as nutrients before the water recirculates to the fish tanks.
Though Urban Organics is primarily focusing on greens, over 250 plant varieties can be grown in a closed-loop recirculating aquaculture system, including papayas, bananas, squash, beans, okra, and pineapples.
Sustainability-wise, Pentair claims their system puts out minimal waste, reduces pressure on over-fished species, and, as a local food source, eliminates excessive food miles.
"The innovation and passion of the Urban Organics team is inspiring, and I'm proud to welcome them to St. Paul," St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said in a statement.