In this episode, Steve Carrell, co-owner of Ponderosa Aqua Farm shares with us highly valuable information on setting up a commercial aquaponics system. Steve owns a construction company while his wife, Missy, is a long-time gardener. A dynamic duo, together they formed the Ponderosa Aqua Farm based in Spencer, Indiana. It was at that time when they started to question what’s in their own food that sprung out their decision of living off of only what they ate. Transitioning from an in-home basement system to a commercial system, they went to Florida to attend the course at Green Acre Aquaponics.
While many commercial aquaponics growers recommend to start small, Steve takes the opposite direction believing that you have to have a certain scale in order to sell enough produce in order to be profitable. Listen in to what he has to say.
He also discusses things like underestimating the cost of going commercial (can be pretty overwhelming!) including labor and plumbing, the social impact of aquaponics, market research, as well as growing tomatoes, lettuce, and microgreens and dealing with clogged lines that brought death to their strawberries.
Steve talks about observing fish habits to know if your system is okay and discovering problems along the way. Other points of interest include gravity flow system, swirl filters, mineralization tanks, grow beds, as well as a look into their commercial system consisting mainly of deep water culture raft beds.
We also touch on heating issues, buying the greenhouse from Craigslist, and grow towers which they got from Green River Greenhouses in Indiana. Steve delves more into dutch buckets systems and how they actually work.
Read Full Show Notes
55: From Becoming Food Aware to Commercial Aquaponics with Steve Carrell of Ponderosa Aqua Farm in Indiana
Here’s what you’ll learn from this episode:
- How they got started with aquaponics
- Learn how they learned so much from Facebook aquaponic groups
- Steve takes you through the training courses they went through
- The Aquaponics Course – Green Acre Farms in Florida
- Steve talks about the business of aquaponics
- Check out what pieces added up that they didn’t realize as part of the costs for building
- Starting big instead of starting small? What Steve learned from a 28-page report from John Hopkins University
- Social impact of aquaponics overrides the business side of it – do you agree?
- Steve shows us how their market research was done
- What they are growing in their system:
- Listen up for a walk-through of their basement system
- Some problems they faced in their system
- Find out why Steve considers heat as their largest obstacle
- Check out what they had to go through to buy the greenhouse – good deal actually which they got from Craigslist
- More about vertical towers and dutch bucket system (what’s this?)
- Steve explains more about dutch bucket system
- Jump-starting their nutrients from an aquaculture company (nope, not for free)
- Check out the various plants they’re planning to grow in their commercial system
- Listen in to what Steve thinks about writing on paper versus just going for it!
“Success is really just hard work…There’s no such thing in my mind as luck. Most luck comes out of hard work.” – Steve Carrell
“I do see that this type of farming – aquaponics, even hydroponics or aquaculture, all this stuff is going to change the way food is made. And with people starting to question what is in their food, I think that’s where it all started.” – Steve Carrell
“This sharing of knowledge has been probably the best part of aquaponics because no one’s trying to hold on to their information… They believe that this food system we have today has to change and everyone’s willing to share free information in an open form to better society.” – Steve Carrell
“From a business standpoint, it’s just overwhelming. The flip side of that is although it has take a lot more money than what we thought, I think in the long run, the return on investment is just going to be slightly longer than what we thought.” – Steve Carrell
“The social impact of this has overridden the business aspect of this endeavor. So the fact that I think it’s needed socially – aquaponics, food, in general, has overridden my business brain.” – Steve Carrell
“We need customers to produce food but we need food to get customers.” – Steve Carrell
“You wouldn’t think that you’d be able to tell so much by the fish habits but you can really tell how everything is doing by how much and how fast the fish move.” – Steve Carrell
“Our food system in general is going to change. People really are concerned about what they’re eating now… Aquaponics is on the absolute forefront.” – Steve Carrell
“We learn everyday. We find out new stuff everyday so to me that’s success in itself.” – Steve Carrell
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