US (OK): Eliminating food insecurity with $13 mln greenhouse, including aquaponics

“This is money that did not go to the Bureau of Indian Affairs or to the federal bureaucracy,” Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said. “This money came directly to the Osage Nation. This is proof if the funds bypass the bureaucracy and arrive to us, we know how to use them.” While greenhouses have long been a means to provide year-round vegetable production, aquaponics is a relatively new technology that uses a closed-loop system to produce both plants and fish. 

The Osage Nation recently displayed how it spent about $13 million, dedicating facilities aimed at providing food security for the tribe. Unveiled were a 42,000-square-foot greenhouse and the building of a 44,000-square-foot program, which includes aquaponics and food processing areas. The investment came via the CARES (Coronavirus Assistance, Relief and Economic Security) Act, which earlier this year provided $8 billion in financial assistance to tribal governments.

In the Osage facility, tilapia will be produced in conjunction with lettuce and spinach. Seedlings sprouting in the facility are expected to provide a variety of fresh vegetables in the next few months, including beans, squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce and other greens. “This is impressive and it should be,” Standing Bear said of the complex. “It was built to be impressive.”  

With a year-end deadline for CARES Act money to be spent, actual construction on the facilities took only four months — or roughly half that time when accounting for days lost to rain, the project manager said. “This is a dream come true for me because I have been worried to death for about the past decade about food insecurity,” Osage Nation Congressman Scott BigHorse said.

Read more at Tulsa World (Rhett Morgan)

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