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WMF Collaborates with the Urban Erie Community Development Corporation to Create Erie Aquaponics

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August 9, 2011 – The efforts of Erie Aquaponics, a for-profit business, will dovetail with the programs of the UECDC to bring needed jobs to the area, and additionally to provide opportunities and training for business ownership.  Erie Aquaponics will help the eastside Erie neighborhood in two ways: by providing living-wage jobs for people in the area and by providing access to healthy, affordable foods to one of the greatest food desert areas of the tri-state region.  Fresh produce will be available weekly at a farm stand on-site and additionally through a CSA (community-supported agriculture) outlet.  Aquaponics combines the technology of hydroponics systems (the process of growing plants in a soilless growing medium with added nutrients), with that of aquaculture (raising aquatic organisms such as fish).

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Why choose aquaponics?  It is a viable, emerging food industry with strong industry growth projected over the next 5-10 years.  Aquaponics produces more food per square foot than either hydroponics or conventional agricultural practices.  By using a controlled environment, that requires no pesticides, a healthier, sustainable product is grown.  Aquaponics use self-circulating systems to recycle water.

Initially, Erie Aquaponics will construct one 12,000 sq. ft. greenhouse, with plans to expand production by 800% in the future.  Erie Aquaponics will be primarily a vegetable farm initially producing over 500,000 heads of lettuce and nearly 4 tons of gourmet salad blends, basil and other herbs.  About five percent of the product sold will be fish – fresh yellow perch.  Production will be located at the Joyce A. Savocchio Business Park.

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Erie Aquaponics will be a for-profit, worker-owned cooperative made up of a Board of Directors and Worker-Owners; each Worker-Owner owns a share of the company and gains from its success. The cooperative aspect of Erie Aquaponics is a key element to building wealth, self-sufficiency and leadership skills in East Erie.

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This early plan illustrates a mixed program of aquaponics, raised bed gardens, manufacturing and educational activities on a site provided by Erie County Economic Development Corporation.  As the focus of Erie Aquaponics matures, aquaponics has assumed a larger role in the project.