Owners: Pablo Alvarez and Craig Petten
Claim to fame: One of the first aquaponics businesses in the GTA
Founded: 2013Location: an industrial park in Mississauga
- Aquaponics plants take 50% less time to grow than soil-grown plants
- One of the first vertical aquaponics systems in Canada
- It takes up to one year to establish the bacterial colonies in a healthy system
Aqua Greens is dedicated to providing the most nutrient rich, locally grown organic greens and tilapia to grocery stores and restaurants in the city of Toronto. They are passionate about strengthening local communities through the celebration and awareness of aquaponic food production in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally responsible.
Craig and Pablo worked in the food industry for years before taking the sustainable building course at Humber College that would spark their interest in aquaponics systems. While they visited organizations in Chicago and New York, they were most inspired and supported by people in Detroit, who helped them figure out the complexities of vertical aquaponics systems.
After winning a $20,000 prize in a Dragon’s Den-type contest, Pablo and Craig also raised money through a Kickstarter campaign and invested their own money. They estimated it took about 3-5 months to work through city bylaws and find a landlord that understood what they were doing. They currently have a 5 year lease with landlords who have written letters of support for the project.
Craig and Pablo are excited about aquaponics systems because they are closer to natural systems than hydroponics. The “aqua” in aquaponics refers to the fish side of the equation. Natural bacterial cycles are utilized to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. Plants in turn, clean and filter the water that returns to the fish environment. It’s a closed loop ecosystem that uses 90% less water than conventional agriculture and doesn’t require chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
Aqua Greens doesn’t don’t process fish, so they sell it live to grocers. Chefs and retailers have encouraged them to focus on a limited number of crops and do them well, so aside from the fish they are growing mainly basil, lettuce, kale, watercress. Year-round growing means they can offer stable supply and pricing to chefs. They also sell produce at The Stop’s farmers’ market at Wychwood. Donating produce to The Stop’s community food programs fits with their desire to promote the values of the triple bottom line: social, environmental and financial sustainability.
A second unit is under construction that will double capacity, and the hope is to find a location more centrally located in Toronto in the next few years – to further reduce food miles!
Follow ThemPage updated on 2015-10-19 12:29:17