US (PA): Urban farm inside old Westinghouse plant offers gaze into aquaponics

The WestWinn Urban Agriculture Co. — a $4 million aquaponics project situated on 25,000 square feet inside The Landing in downtown Sharon — would span 30 acres of dirt if it were a traditional farm. WestWinn is an urban farm that combines aquaculture and hydroponics to grow healthy, sustainable crops of lettuce and other vegetables, as well as fresh fish year-round.

It just opened for business. Aquaponics is aquaculture, the raising of fish, and hydroponics, non-soil gardening, said Robert Studor, director of aquaponics for the company. “We have a couple of different methods that we use, like the raft beds, the vertical beds, and then the nurseries,” Studor said. “It’s the art of not using soil in growing things in a more sustainable manner.”

WestWinn Urban Ag was partially funded by the local Winner family, which owns much of the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant in Sharon, and the Valley Shenango Economic Development Corp, a non-profit organization that holds a master lease from the Winners on most of The Landing site. The aquaponics company was also able to secure grant funding, including one from the city of Sharon for $380,000.

WestWinn — named for Westinghouse and the Winners — finished building the space in January on the first floor of the former machine shop of the former Westinghouse I Building. It added water through March. In April, it acquired the first fish and sold its first head of lettuce on July 8.


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