Education / 2013
25 Aquaponic Farms in 25 Schools
Food IS the common thread that can help solve the world’s major problems simultaneously. Urban farming points us in the right direction and aquaponics is the vehicle to get us there. Aquaponics is the most sustainable (economically and environmentally) way to grow food on the planet – most water efficient, highest yields, zero waste, better-than-organic, with incredible taste. It is a closed-loop system that combines aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing food in water). We developed a highly efficient model that grows more food per square foot than just about anything, using vertical grow- towers. The rendering posted above can produce up to 1000 plants per year in just 20 square feet in optimal conditions. Aquaponics grows leafy greens, herbs and fruiting crops along with edible or ornamental fish. After several years of operating different types of aquaponic systems we have found this approach to be the easiest and most efficient way to learn, teach and jump right into the excitement of growing your own food. OUR PLAN: We are prepared to install 25 of our unique aquaponic systems in 25 schools in 2013. Each school will receive training based on our existing course and manual (Art & Science of Aquaponics) coupled with maintenance and support. We will also encourage installation of the vertical grow-tower system to become a class project. Additionally, we have also budgeted to pay a stipend to 4 teachers to help us convert our course into a curriculum that meets CA State Standards. Integrated Environmental Education (including urban farming) has been proven by our partner Environmental Charter High School to lead to the highest graduation rates (and acceptance to 4-year colleges) in the US. Aquaponics is the future of farming on planet Earth. By combining the two, aquaponics + education, what better way to cultivate a resilient community?
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
• First commercial aquaponics farm in LA County • First aquaponic system at LAUSD ( http://vimeo.com/41029703) • First hyper-local, living produce, better-than-organic sold at SoCal Farmers market (LA Times- http://goo.gl/s3twp) • Created the Art & Science of Aquaponics course- the first backyard/ DIY aquaponics class in SoCal (LA Times- http://goo.gl/mGmPQ) • Consultant on some of the largest aquaponics projects in CA (http://goo.gl/LE1Bu) • Designer of the smallest, yet highest yielding per square foot, Aquaponics system… just about anywhere. (Dream Garden http://goo.gl/JG1Sv) • Free farm tours to 1000’s of visitors • Co-orchestrated the debut of aquaponics at the CA State Fair, reaching 500,000 visitors (Sacramento Bee http://goo.gl/0HuYp ) • Presented AP @ the Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference at UCLA Anderson School of Management (Seedstock) • Completely open-source, share all our secrets and spread the gospel of AP to all • Re-introducing taste to living food (Edible Westside http://goo.gl/KydmV)
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
• Aquaponics Association • Bright Agrotech • Bluelab • California Aquaculture Association • Earthflow Design Works • Environmental Charter High School • Environmental Charter Middle School • Growing Experience • LA League of Arts • Los Angles Neighborhood Land Trust (Gardening Apprenticeship Program) • Social Justice Learning Institute • The Learning Garden • Venice High School • Warren Lane Elementary • Waters Wheel • Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnets
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Seeing 25 functioning aquaponic systems installed on 25 campuses is a great milestone for any school district. Counting the numbers of teachers who have integrated aquaponics into their existing course work will be a bonus. Listening to the student “aquaponics ambassadors” give educational tours to their peers and community members will be a leap in education. Looking beyond 2013, the project will have maximized success when the school district begins to open up more land on campuses not just for educational-scaled systems, but also for aquaponic farms to be installed, sized accordingly, to feed the campus and the neighboring community… offering a clear path towards a hyper-local food system.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
OPEN SPACE IS FARM SPACE: Enough unused land exists in LA to feed LA. If we considered just the 5000 acres of asphalt that LAUSD owns and converted 4% (200 acres) of that to aquaponic farms, we could put a salad on EVERY Angelino’s plate EVERY day of the year. The revenue the School District could earn would radically change the face of public education. Imagine teachers paid a fair wage, students learning useful vocational training, schools nourishing the minds and bodies of our youth, and communities benefiting from neighborhood farms and schools – the way LA used to be. Evo Farm offers a profound stepping-stone to get us there.
REDUCTION OF CHRONIC DISEASES: Almost all of the diseases we face are not only preventable but also reversible. They can be turned on and off based on what we eat and what we don’t. In the US, we spend as much on these diseases as we spend on defense ($700 Billion annually). A path towards reducing these costs opens the door to happier, healthier world. Children who are involved in growing vegetables will eat vegetables and are more likely to raise their children to do the same. Evo Farm will teach them to turn our food deserts into food oases.
WATER EFFICIENCIES: Some people still question the validity of climate change, but the reduction of available freshwater on the planet is undisputed. Last year was probably the worst year for agriculture on record due to drought (and extreme temperature). Aquaponics offers extreme water efficiencies (95% more efficient than conventional ag) and opens the door to a reliable food source. Many of these farms can operate largely on existing rainfall (only possible with aquaponics) that LA receives annually coupled with the steady stream of the LA River. Evo Farm is creating fully functioning, scalable micro- farms demonstrating the greater potential.
URBAN FARMING IS JOBS: Training the future farmers of America is essential. Captivating them with exciting green-tech (triple bottom line), income potential ensures we have an able and willing labor force to do this essential work. It is not just about plants and animals, it is about marketing, IT, business development, finance, accounting, supply chain management, customer relationship management, local manufacturing, engineering, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Urban farming drives a local and resilient economy. A return to our agrarian roots is the single greatest step we can accomplish to allow for the health of individuals, health of communities and health of the planet.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Ironically, success means to us that we have trained enough people and built enough farms that we have essentially worked ourselves out of job. By then, LA will be operating enough farms in the city to provide the fruits and vegetables we eat. The ability to grow food will be a requirement to graduate high school. Cafeterias will harvest and prepare fresh food daily. Diseases like obesity and heart disease will be nearly eradicated. Fast food chains will have been replaced by salad and juice bars. Restaurants and institutional kitchens will source the majority of their food from town. Selling fruits on corner stands will no longer be stigmatized and illegal, but integrated into the policy of the city. Food justice and environmental justice issues will be taught in our history classes. And everyday will be an opportunity to celebrate easy access to the healthiest best tasting foods possible. All of this is not only possible, but also inevitable.