Oasis Farmery: Aquaponics Pioneers

Posted by Peter Moreira

Imagine, if you will, a goldfish tank sitting in your kitchen, with a vegetable and herb garden sitting on top of it. The waste from the goldfish fertilizes the plants, a process that in turn cleans the water for the fish. Now imagine your family sitting beside it, eating the produce from this system.

This simple system — known as aquaponics — is the premise behind Oasis Farmery, a Fredericton startup now trying to raise $10,000 in a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

Oasis is dedicated to using aquaponics to increase the production of local food in an environmentally sustainable manner. It has just graduated from the Summer Institute, an entrepreneurial program at the University of New Brunswick, and has a prototype facility that will show it can produce vegetables for the local market in Fredericton. And it is developing a residential product.

Now it is looking for $10,000 to fund a larger, energy-efficient facility to allow full production of food for restaurants.

 “We’re helping to reduce global food waste by focusing on local food development,” said Jake Wildman-Sisk, one of the project founders.

 “We need to look at the way we’re growing food and constantly improve on it. There are ways to improve it, and I think aquaponics is a step in that direction.”

Wildman-Sisk and co-founder Andrew Mathis -- shown above with mentor Philip LeBlanc -- have travelled to Nevada, California, Milwaukee and Chicago talking to experts in food production and discussing their aquaponic ambitions.

Throughout the summer at the institute, they have developed a 1,000-litre prototype in which they are growing basil, tomatoes, sunflowers and herbs. They have expressions of interest from restaurants that may take their produce. So far, they are using goldfish to provide nutrients for the plants, but eventually they want to introduce food fish.

 “Our aim is to be able to produce fish that you can eat like trout or arctic char, as well as cilantro, basil, a whole bunch of herbs and vegetables that you can use every day,” said Mathis.

They have learned that the system can grow vegetables faster than traditional farming and uses 90 per cent less land and water.

The two entrepreneurs are developing small systems that people can set up in their homes, and a pledge of $250 to the Kickstarter campaign will get you one when they are released in November. But their main focus is on their new facility. It will be a greenhouse powered by renewable energy, with two rows of vegetable gardens over fish tanks. There’s an observation area through the middle of it. That’s important because Mathis and Wildman-Sisk believe part of their mission is to educate school children and the public at large about the importance of innovative food production.

 “I really have a lot of faith in the Oasis Farmery … to really make a huge difference because they’re combining technical rigour with a real care for social causes and food and things that really matter to people,” Fredericton author and architect Johnny Leroux said in the video on the company’s Kickstarter web page.

As of this morning, the Kickstarter campaign has raised $2,644. In order to claim any money, they must receive commitments of $10,000 by Aug. 29. People contributing to the campaign will receive gifts made by local businesses in Fredericton.

This article first appeared on Entrevestor.com.

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Peter Moreira

Peter Moreira

Peter Moreira spent more than 30 years in journalism in Asia, Europe and North America. He worked with The Deal of New York, covering M&A, private equity and VC markets in the U.S. and Canada for six years and serving four years as London Bureau Chief. At Bloomberg, he covered European and U.K. banking and finance. He previously worked for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong,... more



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