Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Hello folks, thanks for your time. 

My name is Jon Parr, regular here on the site and aquaponics enthusiast since 2009. I have run classes and consultation through Fishnet Aquaponics in Santa Cruz, CA since 2010, and started Viridis Aquaponics in July 2013. Viridis is an 8 acre greenhouse, currently 1 acre built out for aquaponics, 3 more of hydroponics. I parted ways completely with Viridis recently and have started a non-profit company called SchoolGrown. 

I am devoting all my time and experience to SchoolGrown. The overall idea is that SchoolGrown will install and maintain all operations of a 30' x 60' greenhouse at no cost or obligation to the school. The teachers, staff, and students will have full access for as much or as little as they wish to participate. I understand that teachers are taxed for time and resources, and want to not burden them any further. Some teachers and student bodies will jump in and own this project, and others will not. I expect that, and either extreme is planned for. Teachers and students will have first dibs to participate in seeding, transplanting, harvesting, feeding, and maintaining the system. Local college interns will coordinate between the teachers and are responsible for the project through a credited internship. Paid SchoolGrown will coordinate between the interns and a CSA program to get the food into the homes of student families. The sales/donations of the CSA produce will pay for the program and future expansion of more greenhouses in more schools. 

In an ideal scenario, teachers and kids do all the duties of an aquaponics farm, while learning water chemistry, biology, ecology, business, and so much more. The interns make sure the kids are doing well, organize curriculum, and coordinate CSA shares. In a less than ideal setting, the teachers or kids of a particular greenhouse may not support it, or may be distracted with other lessons. No problem, it just leaves more work for the interns. Paid staff make sure the teacher/intern relations are operating, and ultimately are responsible for all operations if everyone comes up MIA. During the summer, the college interns will be offered a paid internship. 

The families supporting the CSA model will pick up their weekly produce boxes when they pick up their kids, saving them a trip to the grocery store and saving "food miles". The greenhouse will kick out over 50 full CSA boxes per week. There are over 100,000 schools in the US, and I aim to fill them all.

Please give me your feedback, criticism, concerns, support, and advice. If you want to be a part of the program, I expect it to get big quickly, and I will need tons of help. It is a non-profit company, but we are all working hard to make a difference and will be paid properly for our roles. All proceeds from CSA, workshops, trainings, and so on will go entirely to the NP, without exception.

Who's with me?

Jon Parr

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Replies to This Discussion


Wow, you're hard to keep up with!  Best wishes on your new venture.  Sounds great.  How widely will you range geographically?  And, will you be at the AA conference in SJ next month?  Would be nice to catch up with you in person.  I am involved in a project that's similar in some ways up here in Sac - we should compare notes.

Yes Paul, you keep pretty busy yourself. Yes I'll be at the Conference, and I'll be part way through construction of the Half Moon Bay greenhouse for SchoolGrown, which will be on the Conference tour. I'll give you a call, bud. 

Geographically, we are starting close, then spreading out. I have folks in SoCal already pushing projects there, and Sacramento. So I would guess that all of California will be getting greenhouses built next summer. 


Paul Trudeau said:


Wow, you're hard to keep up with!  Best wishes on your new venture.  Sounds great.  How widely will you range geographically?  And, will you be at the AA conference in SJ next month?  Would be nice to catch up with you in person.  I am involved in a project that's similar in some ways up here in Sac - we should compare notes.

right on Jon, i cant wait to hear more about it and then see it take flight here in Austin..

See you at the Conference usual, it should be Good Times for all.

I'll be there tomorrow morning to help out.

Right-O brother. I want to take this moment to encourage everyone to book your tickets for the AP Conference. I look forward to showing you all around the place and learning together. I have enjoyed every conference so far, and this one will dazzle, with some exciting new things to share.

Rob Nash said:

right on Jon, i cant wait to hear more about it and then see it take flight here in Austin..

See you at the Conference usual, it should be Good Times for all.

Gary, it is always a pleasure spending time with you, and I sure do appreciate your experience you bring to the table. Lumber and trusses will be there Wednesday morning, so we will be pushing Wednesday through Friday to build out an 1800 sq ft SchoolGrown model, identical as it will be in the first batch of schools. 

Tomorrow and Sunday are classes and workshops AP1 and 2, and volunteer building days next week W-F. If any would like to attend class, visit, or volunteer, please take a minute to look here:

Gary Koffler said:

I'll be there tomorrow morning to help out.

Hey Jon, sounds great. I only hope you don't run into what our HS here ran into way back in 2010. At our Mountain City HS they were running a great AP project that was extremely popular and when I learned of AP in 2011 everyone told me I must take a tour. So I immediately called for an appointment only to be told "we are sorry but we had to drop the AP and go back to aquaculture and hydroponics due to the risk of e coli".

It would appear that the local board of health shut their AP system down due to the health risks involved. Now we all know the ludicrousness of that decision (cold blooded fish harbor no e coli for the uninitiated) but nonetheless there you go and after a large AP system was by all accounts very successful and popular with all concerned, not to mention that all the produce they raised was being consumed right there in the school cafeteria, here comes big gov to ruin it all for everyone. Forewarned is forearmed. You must first educate the authorities who in the end can destroy all your great and hard work.

I met Laurie Munroe at the Aquaponics at the Calif State Fair exhibit last month. She is a knowledgeable enthusiast working with the Aquaponics Association in a volunteer IT capacity. One of the first topics we discussed was research she had read about a strain of waterborne e.coli found in tanks and, presumably, fish. She spoke with the very knowledgeable professors from Sacramento State University. They asked if the research had been peer reviewed and if human toxicity of the e.coli strain in question had been determined.

I recall Jon saying he had "stealth" visitors to Viridis who asked if they knew that their produce might kill people? Kinda sensationalistic. Let's find out the facts...

One fact is that anytime birds are allowed to fly over any produce in the field or in a GH, be it AP or HP, there is an equal chance of spreading e coli so when exactly should we be concerned? This is by no means limited to AP. We have a great many commercial ops both large and small spread all over the planet now and I have yet to hear of any e coli outbreaks related to AP. I'm sure Monsanto can help us out with an e coli resistant strain of veggies. Can't wait to hear from them. There will always be "stealth visitors" and there will always be e coli all around us as well as in us. When they find an outbreak in any AP system anywhere I will listen. Until then I will carry on.

Yeah, thanks for the heads up, Jim. I'll start with local schools in may area, and spread like a plague. Hopefully the growing experience base will spread in front of me to make local education easier. The irony is that aquaponics mocks nature, and some folks seam to miss the fact that fish live in water, and this water irrigates our fields. It is no different in AP in that respect. 

Like you said, carry on.

The "stealth visitors" that came to Viridis were in their third year of "trials", and had gone over the top in their AP pilot project to guarantee the impossibility of pathogens, by using peroxide, UV, and ozone. What they accomplished was a taxed and crippled ecosystem, trying to sterilize the baddies while relying on the good guys. They failed, composted hundreds of thousands of heads of lettuce without making it to market (paranoia). They opted for sterilized hydroponic production, but even that was to "risky", so they all went home. The GH is still empty, with 38K sq ft of troughs going to waste. Hmmm, maybe I'll have to salvage it, eh?

I met a wonderful group of educators at Sylvia's Festival last month that installed an aquaponic school farm in Chicago. This particular district allowed the system strictly as demo only, and demanded that the produce be destroyed. They were not allowed to eat, for any reason, nor give it away, nor even compost it. It all had to be destroyed. How's that for "higher learning"?

I tell all my market customers they dont have to wash our lettuce, kale or chard.. none of them do..
and after 5years of selling produce to the public... not one incident. ive sold basil to restaurants for 9 years, they never wash it...we all know ... the worst enemy of a food producing the guy that doesnt know how/when to wash his hands.

like Jim said,, im going to carry on.

Sounds like the FDA and DOA got together on that one. The same folks that don't want to see gardens on front lawns like they were something dirty. wth.

On the peroxide front I am willing to bet they never heard of cs. Cs has been used very successfully by aquarium folks for years now to keep fish and vegetation healthy. It only destroys the anaerobes while allowing the aerobes to flourish.

Man oh man what a waste. Ozone could certainly be used as a rinse but that is just as true with any field grown produce as well. Science at it's worst. 38K sq ft of very expensive real estate and fallow. Nice. The big $ failures just keep piling up while the grass roots efforts keep growing, literally. Those folks never will understand "natural". This has been ongoing since WW2 when our bomb making infrastructure was left with all that ammonium nitrate and no place to use it. Alas they figured it out much to the public's demise. Manure?! grose. Bureaucrats.


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