Looking for an organization in the Pacific Northwest committed to new-age agriculture, Roarke Jennings found an aquaponics farm in the heart of downtown Port Angeles, Washington. The farm is based out of a converted Odd Fellows’ building and an adjacent parking lot, and run by an artist named Maureen Wall.
The farm’s main aquaponic setup is comprised of two beds of vegetables planted into sturdy rafts that float on top of thirty-foot tanks of nutrient-rich water. The plants’ roots are suspended in the water, which gives them all the necessary nutrients they would normally receive from soil, and air is provided to the roots via aerators at the bottom of the plant beds.
Water from these main tanks is purified by the vegetable roots and then pumped into nearby fish tanks, where it is saturated with nutrients from the fish’s excrement. Then, after passing through filters of crushed oyster shells and live freshwater clams to remove particulates, the water is returned to the vegetables full of beneficial bacteria that provide nitrates to the plants. The fish benefit from the plant roots’ purification of the water and the plants benefit from the nutrients produced by the fish.
In addition to assisting with the maintenance of the existing aquaponics setup at the farm, Roarke also constructed a new hydroponics system, beautified the guest entrance, and picked up various supplies by bicycle. Throughout the experience, he gained first-hand experience with a successful new-age agriculture business and learned about the environmental, economic, and social aspects of a local sustainable agriculture enterprise.
Roarke graduated with degrees in International Ecotourism and Sustainability in 2016, and today he is a full time employee at the Food Co-op in Port Townsend, Washington. He is currently refining his mini-aquaponics set-up and brainstorming ways to enable people to build innovative sustainable communities with international connections.