US (KY): Something's fishy in Shelbyville: Farm using aquaponics to produce lettuce

One Shelbyville farm is producing hundreds of lettuce heads a day without using any soil. Their secret? Fish. River City Aquaponics is home to a 6,640 sq ft. greenhouse that produces tilapia and leafy greens all year round. Life at River City is always a big splash and part of why farm manager Chris Harris joined the team.

“I came across aquaponics kind of by chance. I was looking to get out of the field I was in,” Harris said. “I was in property management for the better part of a decade, and I wanted to do something that was interesting and fulfilling, and I found it.”

They’ve been producing 288 heads of lettuce a day. There’s also no soil involved in the entire process, eliminating any use of harmful pesticides. “Daily maintenance and draining these clarifiers, we are able to separate solid waste from the main system so that fresh, clean water will go downstream to the rafts where the lettuce actually sits,” Harris explained.

Ten years ago, there were only two farms running aquaponics systems in Kentucky. That number has since grown to 11. “They are realizing there are a limited amount of resources and are figuring out better ways to conserve water or energy within systems,” Andrew Lohman, a research associate with Kentucky State University in aquaponics, said. “Within aquaponics systems, like I said, we can produce both fish and plants in the same system.”

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