Galesburg explores Aquaponics

May 11, 2012 11:44 AM
312 Aquaponic, Chicago, IL
With the 'Grow Local' food movement gaining popularity among consumers and food establishments, and the desire for a year round supply of locally grown food in many communities, Galesburg's EBI Network has been researching the viability of aquaponically grown foods as a commercially viable business opportunity for the Galesburg/West Central Illinois Region. Gary Camarano, the EBI Network's Global strategies Director recently visited 312 Aquaponics, a leader in Chicago's aquaponic food industry, to get some ideas and answers about the viability of an aquaponic food industry cluster in the region.
312 Aquaponic's Mario Spatafora spent some time with Camarano and conducted a tour of the aquaponic facility in Chicago. Located in an old Swift meat packing facility in Chicago's historic Stockyards district, where meat was once butchered and processed, now resides what may be the next step in 'urban agriculture' - a closed-loop food production ecosystem - of farm raised fish (Tilapia) and multi rack grown produce. "This allows for year round production, locally sourced foods, job creation, and efficient use of resources," commented Camarano. Additionally, Camarano sad, "It will never replace the farming done here, but it could be a logical add on. Take some of our empty industrial space, build indoor aquaponic farms - raise Tilapia, use the effluent rich water from the fish farm for plant growth, and then reuse the water for the fish. It's a closed loop system which produces fresh fish for the consumer as well as fresh produce year round."
312 Aquaponics could be a resource for an aquaponics industry in the region, supplying systems, providing consulting and educational services, and leads for businesses looking to start a facility. Mayor Sal Garza noted, "The region is very attractive price wise compared to Chicago. Useable space in Chicago goes for three to five times what we have in Galesburg, and logistically we can easily service a number of markets looking for a year round supply of quality, locally grown food. Garza continued, "Aquaponics could be a viable use of our existing industrial space, put people to work, and provide a workable solution for the 'Grow Local' food movement. Fresh produce, and locally raised fish from the region can reach consumers in the region year round. We have an advantage over major urban centers in the attractively price facilities ready for occupancy and production. We can also serve markets in Chicago, Milwaukee, Peoria, Quad Cities and St. Louis very easily from our location."
Garza also offered that a three state regional collaboration is actively looking into aquaponics for the region, adding, "Galesburg can be a leader in this endeavor, and it fits our strategy of not only looking to retain and expand our traditional industries, but also to create and attract industries that fit the new, sustainable economy mold."
US Congressman Bobby Schilling (17 - IL) also offered, "Projects like this aren't 'red' or 'blue,' but 'red, white and blue.' Putting people to work, and contributing to sustainability where what you get out of a project is more than what you put in, is worthy of exploration. We should all be able to get behind projects like this when the numbers make sense."
Camarano hopes to uncover either local businesses and investors or businesses and investors from outside the region to establish an aquaponics facility in Galesburg, adding, "The Sustainable Business Center would be a great location for something like this, as well as a number of other possible locations in the region. We'd be happy to share what we know about aquaponics and conduct tours of possible facilities."
For further information contact Gary Camarano. 


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