A Beavercreek Twp. couple has launched an “aqua farm” that will allow them to sell pesticide-free, chemical-free vegetables, fruit, fish and crayfish year-round.
Oasis Aqua Farm founders Kimball and Stephanie Osborne have erected a 2,500-square-foot structure that looks like a greenhouse at their seven-acre farm on Beaver Valley Road in Beavercreek Twp. The “greenhouse” actually houses an aquaponics system, in which plants grow in gently circulating water that also provides a home to fish and crayfish.
>> PHOTOS: Oasis Aqua Farm
Here’s how Kimball Osborne, a U.S. Air Force veteran who works as a civilian at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, describes the Oasis Aqua Farm:
“In aquaponics, fish and plants have a symbiotic relationship. Fish provide the nutrients for the plants and in turn the plants clean the water for the fish. Creating and maintaining this closed ecosystem allows us to grow safe, natural, highly nutritious vegetables along with a lean source of protein (fish and crayfish) in an accelerated time frame.
“This growing system boasts many benefits. It is pesticide-free and chemical-free. We use only non-GMO seeds and don’t use any artificial fertilizers. … Our greenhouse system produces higher-quality food with less impact than traditional farming practices.”
In contrast to the weather extremes and fickle growing seasons that conventional farmers must deal with in Ohio, the aquaponics system will provide a continuous supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, regardless of season, Osborne said. Lettuce can be grown on a four-week cycle, while vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers could be grown in three-month cycles. The crayfish can be harvested after about three-to-four months, while the fish will reach maturity in about nine months.
During a visit to the aqua farm last week, young plants that had been germinated within the previous two weeks included buttercrunch lettuce, kale, watercress, black cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, bok choy and basil. Plans call for adding more vegetables, such as Tatsoi spinach, European cucumbers, arugula, peppers and carrots, as well as other herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, oregano, mint, thyme and rosemary.
The fish and crayfish had not yet been introduced into the system by the time of our visit. Oasis will start with Australian red claw crayfish and yellow perch. Osborne said he may add bluegill in the future.
Oasis Aqua Farm is selling Community Supported Agriculture shares in the vegetables and fish that will be produced by the aquaponics system. The cost is $400 for 12 weeks or $200 for six weeks.