Jason Green didn’t start out as a farmer. He developed virtual reality systems for neurological rehabilitation (wow). But when he and his wife Debi started growing fresh basil on their windowsill, he discovered it made the best pesto in the world. It tasted great because it was super fresh, and he knew people would pay for that. So he switched from saving people to saving the planet by growing hyper-local food.
Enter a type of farming called aquaponics. Most indoor farms use fertilizer and pesticides to grow plants, even if they’re certified organic. But not aquaponic farms. Aquaponics involves growing veggies and fish at the same time. Fish waste gets composted into plant fertilizer, and plants clean the water the fish live in. It’s symbiotic.
An important part of the model is that there’s no supply chain. So when Green starts selling his line of micro salad greens at New York Whole Foods Markets this year, all of the growing, processing, packaging, and distribution will happen at his Brooklyn-based farm. Which makes for super fresh, super delicious, and super inexpensive organic salads.
The company is poised to launch distribution centers across the country, depending on demand. A handful of other aquaponic farming companies exist across the country, too, which grow all sorts of vegetables.
What About the Fish?
Though farmed fish get a bad rap, it's just like farming anything else: there's a wrong way to do it and a right way. If you do it right, it’s even more sustainable than wild-caught seafood, which is being overfished. “Just like you can farm beautiful pasture-raised chicken you can farm great tilapia. Ours taste like a clean white fish, not earthy or muddy like some tilapia can be,” Green said. He raises tilapia because it’s a hardy species, and plans to start selling it to grocery stores later this year.
“Eating fresh food is a totally different culinary experience. We’re affecting climate change by hitting people in their palates and stomachs,” Green said. “People will buy local if it’s a better product.”