West Michigan farmers are bringing their crops indoors, taking advantage of new technologies to harvest a variety of produce year-round. With new techniques like hydroponics and aquaponics — as well as carefully curated hoop houses — these futuristic farmers are closing the gap for fresh, home-grown, diverse produce, and redefining farm-to-fork for a new generation.
In Caledonia, produce and fish live in harmony. At Revolution Farms, Ben Kant and his staff utilize aquaponics, or “Creating a living, healthy, harmonious ecosystem that produces amazing quality food,” he says. In a 50,000 square foot greenhouse, Revolution staff grow tilapia naturally—without hormones or antibiotics—and allow them to do what fish do: swim, eat, and excrete. “Ultimately the fish are creating nutrients,” says Kant, who then utilizes a mechanical filtration system to break down the fertilizer into a nutrient-rich solution for the farm’s four different types of greens.
While Kant has scaled aquaponics to a large operation off a country road, produce is also growing in the heart of Grand Rapids’ Westside, in a humble shipping container labeled “Green Collar Farms.”
“For me the most fascinating aspect [of hydroponics] … is to disrupt the food distribution system,” says Harris. He notes that the U.S.’s current agriculture system relies on shipped produce from only a handful of popular locations, forcing the market to rely on just a few, hardy plants that can survive the journey. “[Most people] can’t name more than two types of lettuce,” says Harris. “What bothers me most about our distribution system is it’s built for food, not for people,” he adds.