Today’s Brewery, Tomorrow’s Farm

Today's brewery, tomorrow's farm
Schmidt’s Brewery Building in St. Paul, Minnesota

In April of 2014, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on a venture called Urban Organics. The concept was aquaponics, a system of growing plants using fish and bacteria to produce nutrients for the plants. I commented on this article here. Over the past five years, both Urban Organics and the concept of aquaponics have made progress in the world. An article on Urban Organics recently appeared in Outside magazine.

Today’s brewery, tomorrow’s farm

Today's brewery, tomorrow's farm
View from an office at Urban Organics, St. Paul, Minnesota

In 2014, Urban Organics was using the Hamm’s brewery on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. Since then, they have moved to the Schmidt brewery, which closed as a brewery in 2002. The Hamm’s location is about a tenth of the size of the Schmidt location. Urban Organics General Manager Dave Haider explained, “Breweries are great for aquaponics, as they need a source of water, which we have in the form of well houses on site. They also have strong foundations built to handle large volumes of liquid.” Today’s brewery, tomorrow’s farm.

A growing worldwide idea

Today's brewery, tomorrow's farm
Superior Fresh LLC in Wisconsin, growing lettuce and Atlantic salmon

It is my understanding that in 2014, the world’s largest aquaponics facility was in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Since that time, aquaponics projects of larger scale have been launched in both the USA and China. Superior Fresh in Wisconsin is scheduled to produce 160,000 pounds of Atlantic salmon each year, and 30,000 heads of lettuce each day. The floating wetlands project in Lake Taihu is not only growing food, but removing the nutrients fueling unwanted algae blooms.

A vote of confidence

Today's brewery, tomorrow's farm
Fish tank at Urban Organics, using filtration technology by Pentair

Large-scale aquaponics projects have also failed in the past. They have failed in the past due to difficulties with the filtration system. Many aquariums have died painful deaths due to difficulties in managing the levels of nitrites in the water. Likewise, many aquaponics facilities have died painful deaths due to difficulties in managing the levels of nitrites in various stages of the project. In 2014, in the Hamm’s facility, Urban Organics was using a recirculating aquaculture system designed, built and contributed by Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems. Since that time, Pentair, a $7.2 billion global corporation, has purchased Urban Organics outright for an undisclosed sum. I consider this as a vote of confidence that the technical problems that have plagued aquaponics projects in the past can be solved. I consider this a vote of confidence in the future of aquaponics. Today’s brewery, tomorrow’s farm.

A few technical details

Today's brewery, tomorrow's farm
Seven-spot ladybug devouring aphids

In 2014, Urban Organics was using tilapia as the fish. I don’t know why they stopped. An attempt was made to use Atlantic salmon. This attempt failed when the fry contracted a disease. It is unclear to me what would make a particular fish well-suited for aquaponics. But in 2019, Urban Organics is using rainbow trout and arctic char, and reporting success. There was no mention of a hatchery at the Hamm’s facility. The Schmidt facility includes a fish hatchery. There was no mention of insect control in 2014, but in 2019, wasps, ladybugs and mites perform organic pest control. Quite a few refinements have been made to the process over the past five years.

Entering the marketplace

Today's brewery, tomorrow's farm
Urban Organics greens on sale in St. Paul, Minnesota

In 2014, Urban Organics was supplying one grocery story in downtown St. Paul. In 2019, their greens mixes appear at supermarkets and co-ops around the Twin Cities. In my local grocery store, the price is comparable to established brands of organic produce. Their char is available at chain of local seafood stores.

A bigger deal than salad

Today's brewery tomorrow's farm
Refugees in Syria

I take particular interest in Urban Organics because it is a way of producing food that cannot be disrupted by climate change. The New Message from God teaches that humanity has changed the climate to the extent that it will begin to change on its own. Over the years, the climate will change in ways unfriendly to traditional agriculture. This paragraph is from the revelation “The Race to Save Human Civilization.”

“Primary here is literally how will you feed the peoples of the world when the world loses 30% of its agriculture, which is what you are really facing, you see? Violent weather, the change in the climate and the impact upon the world’s geologic and biologic systems will create so much imbalance that even if you could find a home for all of the displaced peoples, how would you feed them? And the residents of the receiving nations, how will they respond towards this?”

The New Message from God teaches that “a thousand solutions” are needed to respond to an increasingly difficult world. I consider Urban Organics to be one of those thousand solutions. I offer gratitude for their progress, and best wishes for their future success. Today’s brewery, tomorrow’s farm.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Bring Your Own Ecosystem

Urban Organics in St. Paul, Minnesota. Bring your own ecosystemOne of my fellow students of Steps to Knowledge recently brought my attention to this April 2014 story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about Urban Organics. Since then, Urban Organics has generated a certain amount of buzz. Urban Organics was recently mentioned in Newsweek magazine. What’s the story? Some entrepreneurs took an abandoned brewery on the poorer side of St. Paul, Minnesota. They created/are creating a sustainable vegetable and fish farming facility, using the techniques of aquaponics.

Urban Organics Tilapia Tank. Bring your own ecosystem

Bring your own ecosystem

Some of you may not have heard of aquaponics. Many people have heard of hydroponics. Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil. People who do hydroponic gardening have to get the nutrients for their nutrient solutions from somewhere. Hydroponic gardening is established to the extent that you can buy hydroponic nutrients at well-known gardening stores. Aquaponics makes the process more sustainable by using a combination of fish and bacteria to produce the nutrients for the plants. In the case of Urban Organics, the fish are tilapia. The bacteria are nitrosomonas (which convert ammonia into nitrites) and nitrobacter (which convert nitrites into nitrates). These are the bacteria which are used in most aquaponic facilities. The total amount of water used is much less than for plants grown in soil.

Aquaponics has been around in various forms for quite some time. It has been successfully demonstrated on a small scale in various places such as London and Chicago. Urban Organics is attempting to recreate these demonstrations on a larger scale. It’s not like these larger scale projects haven’t been done before. For example, a large-scale aquaponics project exists in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. As far as I can tell, it was a government project. While Urban Organics received a grant of $150,000 from the city of St. Paul, most of its funding is coming from its founders (Dave Heider and Fred Haberman). If the Urban Organics project successfully reaches planned peak production, it will produce seven times as much fish as the Abu Dhabi project produced in 2012. This is therefore a big deal, taking the “bring your own ecosystem” idea to a whole new level.

Large-scale aquaponics projects have also failed in the past. They have failed in the past due to difficulties with the filtration system. Just as many aquariums have died painful deaths due to difficulties in managing the levels of nitrogen in the water, many aquaponics facilities have died painful deaths due to difficulties in managing the levels of nitrogen in various stages of the project. Urban Organics has a recirculating aquaculture system designed, built and contributed by Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems. Will it work on the scale envisioned? We will soon find out.

There is a grocery store in downtown St. Paul where you can purchase kale and other greens grown at Urban Organics. The produce manager at the grocery store reported a positive response. The plan is for tilapia to also be available for purchase in the summer of 2014. I have not yet had the opportunity to conduct a comparison between Urban Organics produce and other produce. I believe it would be interesting to conduct a nutritional analysis of their produce. The founders say they eat the things they grow on a regular basis.

Some people will say that this is all about providing trendy greens for rich hipsters. But I prefer to consider this as an experiment in reducing the length and complexity of the food supply chain, which I believe would be a very good thing indeed in the days to come. If this project succeeds, perhaps it can be replicated in other cities. If you want to make food easier to obtain, bring your own ecosystem.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.