Andrew Neighbour, owner of Desert Verde Farm in Santa Fe, has built an aquaponics indoor commercial farm that uses no chemical herbicides, pesticides, or other artificial additives to grow a variety of leafy greens, herbs, and microgreens that can be delivered the same day they are harvested.
“Neighbour has created a zero-discharge system with no waste. It’s a sustainable model for Northern New Mexico crop producers,” says Charlie Shultz, Lead Faculty, Controlled Environment Agriculture, Santa Fe Community College. “In addition, Desert Verde provides invaluable hands-on career opportunities for SFCC students.”
According to Neighbour, millennia ago, the Aztec, Chinese, and Egyptians farmed aquaponically. Besides, as Desert Verde Farm thrives indoors, the environmental conditions are continuously monitored and controlled, safe from the vagaries of climate change.
Crops include lettuce, kale, and a variety of leafy greens; culinary herbs, such as basil, cilantro, and dill; and this summer, Neighbour will develop the capacity to produce fruiting vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Ed Whitney, general manager of New Mexico Harvest (a CSA food hub), claims, “Desert Verde lettuce is so tasty, I could make a salad without any dressing.” Neighbour adds: “We can produce two to three thousand plants each week throughout the year—tailored to the needs and preferences of our clients, schools, restaurants, food banks, and hubs—demonstrating the feasibility of duplicating this method of farming to others and feeding communities in need. And all along the way, we will create careers for those who are passionate about feeding the world.”
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Andrew Neighbour, Ph.D