Welcome to our educational indoor aquaponics farm:
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a farming method that utilizes the efficiency of natural ecosystems to produce plant nutrition and animal protein in a soil-less system. This type of farming, rooted in thousands of years of human agriculture, is the merging of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). There are a huge variety of ways to design an aquaponics farm, indoors or outside, with gravel, deep water, or tiny tubes; here is some info about ours:
Our farm is a deep-water recirculating system with 7,000 gallons of water, 500 tilapia, and thousands of plants. The fish waste (ammonia) is converted to plant food (nitrate) by super helpful bacteria (nitrification!). This way fish get clean water that is filtered by the plants and we don’t have to use any chemical, petroleum based fertilizers to grow our super delicious greens! This recirculating water system uses 90% less water than traditional irrigated agriculture. Above is an awesome video explaining more!
With this uniques system we are able to do a lot of research and best practice development for other producers! Being a nonprofit frees us up to make resources like our Barrelponics Manual and Microgreen Cost Analysis available to anyone interested in pursuing aquaponics!
Where is our farm?
Our farm is located between Smithtown Seafood and West Sixth Brewery at 501 W Sixth St, in Lexington, Kentucky. All of our growth is done in what used to be the oven room for the Rainbo Bread Factory, providing us with control of our light, temperature, and humidity, and biological infestations, no matter the season. This building is one of Lexington’s most historically interesting industrial sites, surrounded by residential neighborhoods and including Lexington’s earliest communities of freed slaves after the Civil War. When the 90,000 square foot factory was vacant, it became a liability for all the surrounding family homes, yet now is occupied by a wide range of community minded businesses and nonprofits, working every day to bring greater assets to our city and fellow residents.
Since its inception, FoodChain has been dedicated to showing the links, not just in food systems, but also communities. Our farm is only a part of what is being done in the building we occupy. We share our walls with a craft brewery, a seafood restaurant, a nonprofit incubation hub, a bike co-op, an art studio, coffee roasters, roller derby league, and a bourbon distillery! That’s a lot of community in one spot! We are not an isolated unit: our success is dependent upon all of our neighbors, we are able to support each other and grow as symbiotically as possible. The tenants of this building are linked with the knowledge that we are all stronger together, and our goals are to demonstrate increasing resiliency and economic development through partnerships and collaboration.
What do we grow?
FoodChain’s farm grows tilapia and fosters catfish in partnership with Kentucky State University. These fish currently are sold to Smithtown Restaurant alongside microgreens, lettuces, leafy greens like collard, kale, and chard, as well as exotic herbs.
Our microgreens are sold to other restaurants throughout Lexington in partnership with Blue Moon Farm who has sold local product to chefs for decades here in central KY. We also distribute microgreens, herbs, sunflower shoots, and pea shoots through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares and through the Bread Box Farmers’ Market, a seasonal community of small producers who set up on Bellaire, just outside of our farm space. With microgreens sold directly to consumers we include information on nutritional advantages to microgreen consumption and recipe ideas for their tasty and easy incorporation to any meal!
All of our plant growth is vegetative (no fruiting or flowering) in order to maximize our space, light, and the fast turn over that lettuce and greens allow us! Sales from the farm create a self sufficient economic model which we share with producers interested in exploring aquaponics. All of our fundraising efforts go toward education and outreach, while income generated through sale of fish and produce is used to cover the costs of running our system!
If you would like to contribute to our efforts please consider an educational donation, time volunteering with our farm, or in kind donations of seeds, cleaning supplies, nets, tools, or building materials. To make in kind donations or just learn more about connecting with our farm, contact our farm manager Jerry@foodchainlex.org.
Come tour our farm! We have public tour every Saturday at 1pm! Tours are $10 for adults and $5 for kids. This is a great educational experience where you’ll learn the details of the aquaponic cycle, how and why our system was built, and you’ll even get to meet a fish!
Tickets can be purchased in advance here or purchased the day of at the door with cash, card, or check!
If you are a school, association, large private group, or have special needs then we can accommodate private tours. Fill out this form and we will contact you to make arrangements. For best results please contact us at least two weeks in advance to schedule private tours.
Sign up here to volunteer on the Farm! This can include: harvesting fish, harvesting lettuce, transplanting, cleaning, general maintenance and much more. This is a great opportunity to see the ins-and-outs of working with an indoor farm, working with plants in a soil-less system, and aquaculture skills! All training and information is included in your volunteer hours, so come get your hands dirty (ish)!
We also have room to accommodate large group volunteer opportunities. If interested in this please email Rebeccah@foodchainlex.org for more information!