Angela TenBroeck

Agricultural woman of the year, prefers aquaponics

Mention Norman Borlaug to Angela TenBroeck, the mayor of Marineland and a fourth-generation farmer, and she lights up: “Let me just tell you, I hope to be the Norman Borlaug of controlled environment agriculture,” she says. “If you understand Norman Borlaug, you understand my mission.”

Borlaug, the 1970 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, originated the “green revolution” by transforming wheat into a high-yield, highly adaptive crop and applying more efficient farming techniques. His work saved billions of people from hunger. TenBroeck, head of the non-profit Center for Sustainable Agricultural Excellence and Conservation, sees aquaponics–the combination of co-dependently raising fish and plants without depending on ground soil or chemicals, using fish waste as fertilizer–to be the next green revolution.

She sees it as an essential step toward sustainability, repairing the planet, and ending hunger. TenBroeck is putting the practice to work in Northeast Florida, starting from Worldwide Aquaponics, the company she heads and that’s centered on a 30-acre farm on School Road in East Palatka. From there, it spawns replicas. In the last year and a half, her operation, pushed some 2.2 million  pounds of produce into Flagler, St. Johns, Putnam, Duvall, Nassau, and Clay, counties.

The farm in East Palatka has completed Phase 1. “We could put these farms all over the world. And in places we have figured out how to run them without pumps, with a low water you know, hydraulic head using old physics principles,” TenBroeck says. “Grow food like we’ve never grown food before, that’s high quality, lasts longer, tastes better, chemical free. And we can do this very simply. Yes, it costs a little bit of money to get it started. But once you get it started, and the people get to run it, anybody can do it. And that’s the thing that was so special about what Norman Borlaug did, was that he was able to take the wheat and those things and make it adapt for the environment. And that is, in fact, what we have done here. We could put these low-tech greenhouses all over the world, no matter the environment. We changed some things, we make the wall heights different, and we are able to change the way people access food.”

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