Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising fish, tilapia in this case) and hydroponics (raising plants with nutrient-rich water) to create a symbiotic ecosystem/environment that creates an interdependence between plants and fish in the same water system. Aquaponic systems discharge virtually no water and are considered the next step in hydroponics.
“We are thrilled to expand our business in Chicago to not only demonstrate the sheer potential of Aquaponics, but to help Chicagoans understand the future of agriculture,” states Jolanta Hardej of FarmedHere. “Community partners like Whole Foods Market, who support and encourage us to expand, are essential in helping our business succeed.”
FarmedHere uses indoor vertical gardening in local city centers to grow its fruits and vegetables in a controlled environment that’s not impacted by factors like pests, disease or weather like most produce today. Produce is generally grown within 15 miles of customers—far less than the thousands of miles that traditional produce must travel– which reduces spoilage and allows produce to stay fresher.
Unlike traditional farming, the controlled farming environment of vertical urban farming allows for year ‘round production that produces consistent quality and supports rapid growth (often one-third the time of traditional crops). On average, greens are at the peak of ripeness and ready to harvest in approximately 18 days, in comparison to 60 or more in the fields.
“The ingenuity of FarmedHere’s approach to growing produce will help shape the future of not only agriculture, but also urban planning,” comments Michael Bashaw, Whole Foods Market Midwest Regional President. “We’re thrilled to support a company whose inventiveness is pioneering the increase of food production and access to fresh, local foods in Chicago.”
In addition to being the only USDA organic certified commercial aquaponic farm, FarmedHere is the only organization to receive a license to grow fish indoors in Chicago from the State of Illinois (Department of Natural Resources). Also, FarmedHere developed Chicago’s first job training program on city aquaponics in collaboration with Windy City Harvest (a nonprofit affiliate of the Chicago Botanic Garden).
The Whole Foods Market Local Producer Loan Program provides up to $10 million annually in low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans. To-date, the program has awarded more than $6 million in low-interest loans. FarmedHere plans to use their loan from Whole Foods Market to increase their yield and further renovate their new facility.
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM) is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company’s motto “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to the company’s nearly 60,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by FORTUNE magazine for 14 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2010, the company had sales of more than $9 billion and cu rrently has more than 300 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.