As the great jazz singer Etta James once sang "At last!" No phrase could have more relevance to my experience over the past two years riding a rollercoaster as I have tried to implement my dream —a commercial Aquaponics farm in Santa Fe, NM to provide a new local food source for our disadvantaged communities..
With phenomenal teaching and mentorship from Charlie Shultz and his colleagues, Pedro Casas and Abbey Torres at Santa Fe Community College, I set out on a journey to build a greenhouse and a working Aquaponics facility. Initially it was to be a passive solar structure on my own property. But building a commercial farm in a rural/residential neighborhood ran afoul of county permits and antipathy of some of my neighbors. Then there were / Environment Agriculture program. But facing added costs and administrative hurdles, I took a different tack and went into town in search of a warehouse.
One of the trends in this industry after all is to move towards "indoor farming." While we have amazing sunlight in New Mexico, it comes with sometimes wild fluctuations in daily temperature. In a building with adequate HVAC, we can establish conditions that are constant throughout the day, and the year despite the seasons. The caveat of course is that we have to provide adequate lighting for the plants.
Today, I got the keys to a 5700 sqft space, with 4500 sqft as grow space, the rest for the fish and seeding areas. It will be a coupled system with tilapia driving the production. Solids filtering using Activated Filter beads and a moving bed biofilter. Leafy greens, herbs, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers will be raised in multi-decked DWC troughs and vertical towers.
And so now, the real work begins! This will be Desert Verde Farm, LLC