Massachusetts Avenue Project’s aquaponics fish farm is up and running with the first batch of tilapia growing at a steady pace (see history). Jesse Meeder, Growing Green Farm Director, showed me around the operation, including the worm farm, the tilapia ponds and the organic produce growing systems. By winter, when the fish reach 1′ 3′” to 1′ 6″ in length, local restaurants and residents will have the ability of purchasing fresh, farm-raised tilapia on a year ’round basis. Once mature, the fish are penned off and sold to residents in bags filled with ice.
The sweltering hoop house conditions are also perfect for growing mass quantities of basil that are also sold to restaurants and residents. The basil plants float in protective nets along with the duckweed (tilapia food) so that the fish do not deplete the food reserves and the basil plants’ roots are protected. An irrigation system carries the water from the ponds, along with waste from the fish, through filtering systems that consist of growing produce that is then sold at MAP’s farm stand. The worms keep the soil healthy.
The original tilapia greenhouse, that MAP outgrew rather quickly, is now being used for experimental purposes. Jesse has introduced a couple hundred small mouth bass that appear to be taking to the system. The fish were the perfect choice for the dated operation, as the fish can endure summer’s productive growing months and winter’s dormant months. Additional produce is also grown seasonally in the smaller greenhouse. Community youth are employed to work on the gardens that surround the greenhouse and the hoop house. The entire MAP farming operation is brilliantly successful and should be recognized as one of the city’s most productive grassroots and green initiatives.
More information about the tilapia, workshops and MAP’s other projects can be found www.mass-ave.org.