US (ME): To save resources, growers opt for aquaponics

Fish and plants often support each other in nature. A small but growing set of businesses in Maine are using that symbiotic relationship to grow produce and fish close to home.

Take Springworks Farms in Lisbon, which at first glance looks like an ordinary, if industrial, farm. Rows of Bibb, romaine, and green leaf lettuce stretch all the way to the back of the structure. Grow lights overhead supplement the sunlight. Fans move the air around and keep the room cool.

But look more closely, and you can see the greens are actually floating on buoyant rafts. Their roots dangle in the water, where they get their nutrients directly. On a Tuesday afternoon in March, two workers clad in waders pushed bobbing trays of seedlings through the water into neat, orderly grids.

Trevor Kenkel, the founder of Springworks, says the new crops still have some time before they're ready to go.

"It'll be another couple of weeks before they head into their final stage. And then a couple more weeks before we'll harvest them as heads," he said.

It's a process called aquaponics, a hybrid of hydroponics and aquaculture. Fish raised in tanks produce nutrients as they eat and produce waste. That water is then used to feed and grow the produce. The plants filter the water, making it safe for the fish to live and grow in.


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