Colorado Aquaponics founder JD Sawyer joins me to talk about what makes an Aquaponics system successful
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About Colorado Aquaponics:
When we entered the GrowHaus on an icy overcast day in January of 2010, it was hard to imagine how the space was going to someday grow food for a food desert neighborhood. We put our newborn twins in a grocery cart left in the frozen dirt parking lot, and walked into the dingy old abandoned building with our 3 year old daughter grasping our hand. Just a week before, JD had been asked to help construct an aquaponics system for the GrowHaus, a future urban farm and marketplace in a Northwest Denver neighborhood. We were beyond thrilled and the journey over the years has taken us through some truly inspiring, challenging, and incredibly fulfilling work.
When JD lost his job during the economic downturn, we were compelled to think differently about his career. After 15 years in corporate America, he was ready for a change. Our goals were pretty simple yet powerful: feed our family, give back to the community and create a sustainable business. While researching backyard fish farming to grow more of our own food, we stumbled across a few aquaponics websites, including a Denver Post article highlighting the GrowHaus. We were instantly intrigued by the concept of bio-integrating growing fish and plants together. In Colorado, we have very heavy clay or rocky soils, and a difficult combination of a hot dry climate, draught, nasty summer hailstorms and cold winters. Aquaponics was the answer to fix all that. The concept of no weeding or tilling was immediately alluring. To grow more food with less water while providing constant nutrients and producing zero waste was even more exciting. However, the possibility of raising fresh fish as a protein source in addition to the healthy produce year-round compelled us to start growing this way at home. We felt so very fortunate that our family had access to nutritious food, but realized that not everyone has that same opportunity. Seeing the kid’s excitement for the fish and growing plants, we started setting up systems at area schools. We expanded to operating a 3,000sf deep water culture aquaponics farm which provided a ton of experience as well as great ideas for some system design improvements. We were running one farm while constructing the new one, which was exciting but very demanding. Once we broke down the old farm and moved all of the fish over to the GrowHaus, we were on our way to fulfilling our collective goals and visions.
A big thanks to JD Sawyer from Colorado Aquaponics for doing the interview!