Earth Week Part 3: Futuristic Farming 🌎 (1)
Bethany Van Delft 0:02
Earth Day was Friday, April 22nd. But one day is not enough for our glorious Blue-Green Globe. So, at the time, we're celebrating Earth Week, and today, the Ten News team is going on a field trip to Brooklyn, New York to check out a farm that is indoors. I'm Bethany Van Delft. It's Saturday, April 23rd. And this is no ordinary episode of the Ten News, this is the Ten News Gets Extra.
Various Voices 0:31
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Bethany Van Delft 0:40
In the next 10 years, the human population is going to grow by 1 billion. How will we feed everyone? Well, Ten45 News head writer Ryan Willard sat down with aquaponics farmer Garrison Harward. Aquaponics is a way to grow plants, where fish and other aquatic creatures create nutrients in the water. And the water is then cleaned by the roots of the plants. It's one of the greenest ways to grow plants and it could be the future of urban food production. Garrison found a way to grow fresh food with fish, bugs, and table scraps.
Ryan Willard 1:17
Ryan Willard here, head writer of the Ten News. I'm joined by Tessa Flannery, staff writer on the Ten News, and I am here with a gentleman who's going to show us something that I've never seen before. So first off, tell us who you are. And what it is you do?
Garrison Harward 1:30
My name is Garrison Harward. And I am an aquaponic farmer in Brooklyn, New York,
Ryan Willard 1:36
What exactly is an aquaponic farmer?
Garrison Harward 1:39
So aquaponics is the process of using fish in order to grow vegetables in a hydroponic system in a controlled way.
Ryan Willard 1:47
Whoa. So repeat that. You're growing fish to grow vegetables in a controlled way?
Garrison Harward 1:53
It's actually even cooler than that I'm growing insects, raising fish, raising vegetables.
Ryan Willard 1:58
So you're telling me that in just a few minutes, we're going into a room where we are growing insects, fish, and vegetables?
Garrison Harward 2:05
That's right. And the whole thing is trying to create a circular system that can deal with food waste in a more responsible way so that we can take something that is normally a problem in our cities and turn it into part of the solution. I had the idea that maybe I could create something that would be able to utilize food waste in a more efficient and environmentally friendly wait.
Ryan Willard 2:24
Now, why is it important to use food waste this way, instead of just throwing it in the garbage?
Garrison Harward 2:29
Food waste when it is thrown in the garbage goes to the landfill and it ends up creating a lot of methane gas. That's the stinky gas. That's the cow fart gas. So your scraps that go into the landfill, they get piled in with everything else, and they get suffocated. And that's where you only have that bad bacteria that's growing. Creating all of these greenhouse gases and greenhouse gases are the things that are warming up the planet and contributing to climate change. So diverting food waste from landfills and keeping it from producing methane is a great way that we can help to fight climate change.
Ryan Willard 3:05
So, in this aquaponics farm that we're about to go walk into, what is it like hanging out with flies and fish?
Garrison Harward 3:13
It can get a little bit smelly sometimes. But overall, I think it's really cool. I just love being there and experimenting with different combinations of food scrap densities, and how many larvae I put in there, how much they can produce. And then, you know, changing the different feeding rates with the fish seeing the different vegetables that I can grow.
Ryan Willard 3:33
So, would you call this, basically a grown-up science experiment that you're doing right now?
Garrison Harward 3:40
Absolutely, yeah, this is a 100% of grown-up science experiment. But my goal is to figure out a process that can help all of our cities deal with food waste.
Ryan Willard 3:49
So, what is the coolest thing about growing food?
Garrison Harward 3:53
Ooh, the coolest thing about growing food, I think it's like magic. You can take a seed from anywhere. You can take a seed from halfway around the world, sometimes they find seeds, you know, that have been buried in the loss for hundreds or even 1,000's years. And you end up being able to create a whole plant and food essentially out of nothing.
Ryan Willard 4:12
How can kids get started growing their own food?
Garrison Harward 4:16
It's super easy. My mom always likes to say, seeds know how to grow and plants want to grow. So the best thing that you can do is to try it if you have even just a tiny little windowsill and you can get a little bit of soil and some seeds. The best way to do it is to just start to try and make adjustments. It's what I'm doing here. Everything is about learning. So sometimes I have failures. I've had total crops that I had to throw, you know, back into the soldier fly bin to get recycled. But then I learned from them and by now you know it's been about a year that I've been doing this process and now I can produce lettuce tomatoes, other crops, and mostly The most of the time it succeeds. So the learning process is a little bit difficult sometimes, but the best thing to do is just to try.
Ryan Willard 5:07
Alright, I say we go and check out this crazy aquaponic farm right now. Are you ready? Let's go do it, okay Ten'ers, the Ten News team is about to walk into an aquaponic farm. Garrison, are you ready? Let's do this. Let's see what's happening. So, Garrison, there are so many different things that are happening in this room on this farm. How do you control it all?
Garrison Harward 5:28
You know, believe it or not, I run the whole thing on my phone.
Ryan Willard 5:31
So you've got a farm on your phone? Is that correct? Yeah, it's kind of like real-life Farmville, except you can actually eat the things instead of just clicking on them. Yeah, that's true. Okay, it smells interesting in here. What is that smell?
Garrison Harward 5:46
That smell is a little bit of larvae production, they produce a little bit of ammonia. So, if you've ever smelled a compost pile, or maybe some cow manure, you get a little bit of that ammonia smell.
Ryan Willard 6:01
So, it's not me smelling right now. Right?
Garrison Harward 6:04
I can neither confirm nor deny. So the first thing you're going to see when you walk in is the fish tank. That's the primary biggest part of this system. And in there, we've got about 20 Blue Nile Tilapia and the fish then we feed them the larvae that we produced using food scraps, and that's the only food that they get, they swim around, they live their happy fish lives, we don't eat the fish, you could but for us, the fish are just there to produce nutrients in the water to grow the vegetables. So they eat and they poop. And that is the most important thing that the fish do.
Ryan Willard 6:39
That is what I do every day of my life. So, I relate to those fish, and I'm glad you don't eat them.
Garrison Harward 6:43
We actually have filters that filter out all of the fish poop and all of the little micro-fine particles. Because we don't want any of that in the system, we get all of that out. And we take that out and put that on the garden beds. It's great for the garden, but it kind of gunks up the roots. You don't want fish poop in your lettuce roots, but the dissolved ammonia that the fish produce, that's what really runs the whole nutrient cycling. And that is run by beneficial bacteria that live inside the system. They take the ammonia, and they convert it through natural biological processes into nitrite and nitrate and then that's the food that the plants eat.
Ryan Willard 7:19
Okay, so after it's dissolved into that, can you walk us over to where it goes? It's the plants, right?
Garrison Harward 7:27
Yeah, absolutely. So the whole thing goes through a filter system. It goes around to a couple of different grow beds and then a big old top tank that runs down through some gutters where we've got all of our lettuce production.
Ryan Willard 7:37
Well, how does that help the lettuce grow?
Garrison Harward 7:40
So, this lettuce is growing in something called an NFT system.
Ryan Willard 7:45
Like a non-fungible token system?
Garrison Harward 7:47
I wish that would probably be more profitable. No, an NFT in hydroponics is called the nutrient film technique. You have just a very thin layer of water that is always circulating. So this has just at the bottom of the is just a tiny little stream of water that constantly keeps the roots wet, but not submerged.
Ryan Willard 8:07
How long does it take for lettuce to go from a seed to a head of lettuce?
Garrison Haward 8:12
From a seed to a head of lettuce inside like this, it takes about five weeks, the longest part of the process actually is from seed to transplant, eating it into the system which takes a little over a week and a half, two weeks. And then it's really only three weeks in this system for it to grow out.
Ryan Willard 8:29
And could I just eat this lettuce right off of this right now? Is it ready to eat?
Garrison Harward 8:34
You absolutely could. Lettuce is great because you can really eat it in any size.
Ryan Willard 8:38
Interesting. Okay, what else have we got?
Garrison Harward 8:40
So at the bottom of our system, once we get down through this nutrient film technique, and we've grown the lettuce, we go into these beds that have duckweed and duckweed is a really really nutritious water vegetable that is a part of our nutrition for the fish do ducks eat duckweed? Is that why it's called duckweed ducks do in fact, eat duckweed? I don't know if that's why it got named duckweed. But I would bet that it has something to do with that.
Ryan Willard 9:07
Alright, so is that is this the final stage of this farm right here? Is this the end all-be all? Because, this is honestly looking like nightmare fuel for me what I'm looking at right now. What is this Garrison? And get it away from me!
Garrison Harward 9:23
Yeah, this is where things get a little bit icky. It's actually my favorite part of the whole system. I think it's really cool. These are the black soldier fly larvae and black soldier flies are they say that they're flies, but they're very different than a housefly. They don't bother people. So these are naturally occurring insects all over the United States. And they will eat almost anything in their larvae form. And they're 100% harmless. So you can see you might be back in a way but I've got them here in my hand, a big pile of larvae, and they aren't doing anything.
Ryan Willard 9:57
Wait, so it doesn't eat humans?
Garrison Harward 9:59
They know they have a really tiny mouth, the mouth is so small that they can't pierce human skin. But they're really good at kind of pushing and rooting their little mouth into food. So they can break apart meat, they can break apart dairy. I threw some cheese rinds in here once and they went bananas for them. They also like bananas, they like all kinds of everything. If you can think about it, if it's a food product, they'll eat it.