Since opening in 2012, Tao Yuan—Pleasant Street’s Asian fusion restaurant—has been in the business of serving the delightfully unexpected. With dishes like “duck confit fried rice” and “Maine Jonah crab wide noodles,” chef and co-owner Cara Stadler deftly crafts a cuisine that is both delicious and surprising. The restaurant’s latest project, the construction of its very own rooftop aquaponics greenhouse, is no departure from this trend.
The idea for Canopy Farms, an aquaponics greenhouse recently constructed on the rooftop adjacent to Tao, came to Stadler and her mother—co-owner Cecile Stadler—about a year after the restaurant’s official opening. With the help of Kate Holcomb, the founder and director of Canopy Farms and longtime friend of Cara Stadler, the team has worked to bring the project to fruition.
The greenhouse is one step in Stadler’s mission to source locally and more sustainably. “Maine is an incredible state in terms of its products. The produce here is amazing,” Stadler said.
The greenhouse uses aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. The system involves growing produce in beds placed atop fish tanks. The plant beds and fish, in this case, tilapia, work together in a symbiotic relationship; the fish excrete fertilizer for the plants while the plants clean the water for the fish, emulating a natural ecosystem found in lakes and ponds.
Placing the structure in a greenhouse allows year-round growing, which could, in turn, provide year-round farming jobs and change the landscape of the industry in Maine.
When it opens, Canopy Farms will be one of two commercial aquaponics farms in Maine. The other—Springworks Farm in Lisbon—was founded as a small-scale system by Trevor Kenkel ’18 in 2014 during his first year at Bowdoin.