Brian Rusk has set up a small aquaponics demonstration in the barn at FarmWild to show attendees how produce could be grown without soil, using limited water, and integrating nutrients provided by fish waste.
"One of the biggest questions people asked me then was, 'OK, this produces enough greens to feed your family, but can you scale up?'" Rusk, 48, said during a Friday morning tour of his family's 27-acre property on Smith Road. "I answered, 'I don't know, but I'll find out.'"
The aquaponics greenhouse and associated grow rooms that have since been built at FarmWild enable Rusk and his crew to cultivate as much produce as could be grown on an acre of farmland in a year.
The space is bursting with basil, bok choy, kale, collard greens, lettuce, cilantro, parsley, ginger, turmeric, and other edible offerings, but a key ingredient to the success of the endeavor is the four tanks full of various sizes of koi fish located on the right side of the greenhouse. "I grow about 120 pounds of basil every week, year-round," Rusk said. "I plant seeds every Wednesday, year-round. And every week, I have to harvest just as much as I plant because there's a six-week cycle everything has to move through. I plant inside (under grow lights), then have a transplanting spot and at the end of the fourth week, move everything out to the greenhouse."
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