Aquaponics sounds like the stuff of science fiction. Instead of crops’ roots reaching down into the soil, they are suspended in water that is filled with live, swimming fish that sustain the plants with their nutrient-rich excrement. The closed-loop system is generally less disease prone and more water efficient than soil-based gardening, and at the end of the day, farmers can sell plants from above the waterline and the fish from below.
Aquaponic farming is not a widespread practice, but it is expected to grow. According to Future Market Insights, the global aquaponics industry is expected to grow more than 7 percent in the next 10 years. In 2018, the United States was home to about 40 percent of all aquaponics operations globally.
The innovative growing method has the potential to make a splash in Maine’s agricultural scene, but first, it has to overcome market roadblocks and a marred past.
The story of Springworks Farm
The only active commercial aquaponics growing operation in Maine is Springworks Farm in Lisbon. Trevor Kenkel, the company’s founder, broke ground on Springworks Farm five years ago, when he was just weeks into his freshman year at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. The 6,000-square-foot facility raises tilapia and grows five different types of lettuce. Kenkel said the farm provides produce and fish to about 25 Hannafords and several distributors.