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Neighborhood Radishes, Grapes… and Aquaponics?

I bet you never thought that you’d be able to pick up some tilapia harvested right on the West Side, did you? I sure didn’t… until yesterday that is. Par for the course, as I was heading from Grant Street to Richmond Avenue, I came across a aquaponic fish farm in the process of being built inside of a MAP* greenhouse, I kid you not.

What first caught my eye was MAP-member, Jesse Meeder, tilling near a newly-constructed pergola. He pointed out the first signs of beans, peas and grapes that were beginning to grow. Then he asked me if I had seen the 2000 gallon self-sustaining tilapia fish farm. If you’re into self-sustaining projects, like I am, then this is a ‘must see’. And not only does it sound cool in practice, these aquaculture systems work very well.


OK, so how does one of the systems work? In a nutshell, the dirty water (from the fish-filled tank) provides needed nutrients to the greenhouse plants. The plants filter the ammonia out of the water before the water is returned to the tank. Duh! Eventually, when the tilapia fish reach one pound, they will be taken out of the tank and sold to neighborhood residents and restaurants. Tilapia are perfect for this sort of environment because they are plant-eaters, which means that their food can be grown right in the greenhouse. The greenhouse also features a worm farm  – the worm castings are used to fertilize the plants. I was floored to find that the plants grown in this little greenhouse produce the same amount of produce yearly as the entire nine-lot urban farm.

Before I left, I made a couple of purchases from the Growing Green street-side booth (as did a young girl who apparently lived nearby). I picked up some fresh chives for a $1 a bunch (what a deal), and a bag of salad greens for $1. I almost felt guilty walking away spending only $3 for my purchases. But that’s the point, right? To offer healthy foods alternatives grown right in the neighborhood? It really doesn’t get any better than that. 

*MAP – Massachusetts Avenue Project 

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