Thursday, November 19, 2015

December Meeting

The December meeting of Bessemer Aquaponics will be held on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 6:00 PM at Bessemer United Methodist Church 3015 East Bessemer Avenue, across the street from Erwin School.

All interested parties are invited to attend.

You can actually see our chosen site on the map above as it is to the right of the church bordering road 2770 (Huffine Mill Road) East Bessemer Ave and US 70 (East Wendover)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

November Meeting And Food Safety

From Ann-Michelle Van Eepoel of the Piedmont Center for Sustainability: 

"Hi folks!
Thanks so much to everyone who came out last Tuesday for the Steering Committee meeting at Bessemer United Methodist Church! At the meeting, we went over our proposal for the sub-committees, including each one's scope and goals.

 Please mark your calendars! Our next meeting will be at 6PM on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 at Bessemer United Methodist Church. Be sure to invite anyone you know who may be interested in working with this project!

Here is our proposal for sub-committees:

*Project Oversight Committee:  This committee will oversee the work of other committees and will contain members from each committee.  They will be responsible for completing a proposal for use of the land to be submitted to the appropriate government offices. This committee will make the final decisions on all aspects of the project.

*Research Committee: This committee will be responsible for researching and compiling information related to the needs of the project.They will research data related to existing aquaponics businesses and organizations, different methods of implementation of aquaponics, costs and income models for aquaponics systems and centers, and the cost and timeline of building the Center.  They will generate reports as requested by the Project Oversight committee, and other committees, as needed. 

*Funding Committee: This committee will be responsible for researching and connecting with funding sources within and outside the Bessemer community.  They will seek out funding sources such as grants, donations, fundraising methods, and other opportunities as they are discovered and apply for funding from relevant sources. They will report to the Project Oversight Committee and other committees as needed and make all funding related decisions.

*Community Engagement Committee: This committee will be responsible for creating exciting about the project within the Bessemer community and beyond.  They will also help make positive connections with city and county governments. This committee will create and implement a plan for publication relations, research the impact of similar programs, connect with community leaders and groups, and develop the volunteer base.

*Timeline: With this proposal, we would carry out the responsibilities outlined above for a period of 3 months, then do a progress check together to determine our next steps as a group.

If you have feedback on these committee descriptions, we want to hear it! Please send your comments to

If you need let us know whether or not you'll be at a meeting, RSVPs should always go directly to

We love getting your feedback, we appreciate your participation and we're so excited about all we're going to accomplish together!"

Google map to Bessemer United Methodist Church 3015 East Bessemer Ave, Greensboro, 27405.

And now, for something really different...

How Safe Is Our Food And How We Can Make It Safer

Perhaps you saw or read reports that human DNA has been found in hot dogs including vegetarian hot dogs. Cornell University professor and expert on food safety, Martin Wiedmann tried to play the study down but admitted:

"This is telling us nothing new about hot dogs," he said"

It other words, some folks have known about this for quite some time but haven't bothered to tell us.

Even if eating other humans is safe I doubt most reading want to make it a habit. And while the articles tell us of some of the companies whose products were considered safe they don't tell us who the bad guys are.

Then there's the removal of country of origin labeling requirements required on meat passed by the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. In other words, the old phrase voting with your pocket book is no longer possible. Especially when even North Carolina companies like Smithfield Foods are now owned by the Chinese:

"One year ago this month, a Chinese company bought America’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods.  The $4.7 billion deal is the biggest Chinese acquisition of a U.S. company to date."

Ever heard of feeding manure to fish?  It's even been the subject of scientific study.

"As excessive use of raw CM may present a risk related to increased supply of nutrients, decay of organic matter and the presence of enteric pathogens."

CM stands for Chicken Manure. How much you want to bet that most of the workers on Chinese fish farms have no idea how much is too much chicken manure?

And it's not just fish. Seems manure is fed to cows, pigs and chickens as well. 

From Feedipedia:

"Coprophagy, or feeding on manure, is not new in animal nutrition. For example, livestock feeding on a farm has frequently involved a system of beef cattle followed by hogs and subsequently chickens. Under such a programme the nutrition of the hogs and chickens is based on manure. The current interest in manure as a feedstuff is mostly due to the problem of waste disposal from intensive livestock and poultry operations. Apart from this problem it has been recognized that large amounts of nutrients are wasted. The re-use of manure is one way of creating edible protein from waste material which is often disposed of uneconomically and also creates a nuisance. The amount of excreta produced is considerable: a 2-kg hen produces 0.8 kg a week, a 650-kg cow 150 kg, an 80 kg pig 40 kg and a 45 kg pig 22 kg.

Manure has served as a substrate for both yeast and algae used as feedstuffs, and it has been tried as a substrate for maggots used as a poultry feed; however, the simplest way to use it is as a direct feed. With the intensification of poultry keeping, not every poultry farm has enough land on which to spread manure. The results of many experiments indicate that dried poultry manure can be successfully included in the feeds of both ruminants and nonruminants."

Now how do you reckon that human DNA got into those hot dogs? Could it be from human manure being fed to animals? Is human manure being spread on vegetable crops causing them to take on traces of human DNA as well? And what about all the antibiotics and other drug residues that are found in human manure?

"For thousands of years, China's farmers have used human manure, or "nightsoil", as fertilizer (King, 1911). In this example from the Tai Lake Region, nightsoil is collected and stored in large ceramic tanks or water-tight slate-lined or concrete pits. Manure and urine are collected in buckets within the household, or deposited directly in the storage tanks, which are usually located in the animal stall and toilet area of the household."

Sure, it worked fine for centuries but China now has a population of  1,404.722,428 and counting. 
That's a lot of crap. "China's population is equivalent to 19.24% of the total world population." The population density in China is 145 people per Km2.

For comparison: The population density in the U.S.A. is 34 people per Km2.

With that many people in China they might need to get rid of a few and like they say, "Parts is parts."

Could it be we're eating the Chinese people too? But really I'm just speculating... Or am I?

Anyway, there is something you folks in Greensboro and Guilford County can do to help protect our food safety. For months now myself and others have been working on a project called Bessemer Aquaponics-- the first accredited aquaponics school and production facility in the United States.

For those who might not know, Aquaponics is a recently modernized 5,000 year old agricultural technology that produces 6 times as much food per acre using as little as 2% of the water of traditional agriculture. It's a speeded up natural process that combines fish and plants into one growing system to produce 100% safe, organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish and seafood anywhere you want to grow it. It's really as simple as this just on a much larger scale:

 Eventually most farming will convert to aquaponics-- the question is how long will it take?

We are working in conjunction with residents of my own East Greensboro community, the Piedmont Center for Sustainability, the USDA, NC State University and NC A&T University as well as the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Service. And we need your help.

Soon we are going to ask the Guiford County Commissioners not for money but for a piece of land that has been owned by the county since 1859 at a cost of less that $25.00 and has been abandoned for over 40 years-- land that is sitting right in the middle of one of Greensboro's poorest neighborhoods, most in need of jobs and education, right in the middle of a food desert. And we want you to tell the Guilford County Commissioners to give us that land so that East Greensboro can become the central hub of the emerging Aquaponics industry and all the safe food and jobs that will come with it.

Please contact the Guilford County Commissioners and ask them to support Bessemer Aquaponics. And please share as they need to see thousands of e-mails and phone calls to make this happen. Better yet, e-mail them the link to this post and let them get a taste.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October Community Advisory Board Meeting

The next meeting of Bessemer Aquaponics will be at Bessemer United Methodist Church 3015 E Bessemer Ave, Greensboro, NC 27405 October 20, 2015 from 6:00 until 8:00 PM. Google Map:,-79.7471477,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x88531f547d5b894b:0x403a22455ddb8ee8

If you're not there you're a fish out of water.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Community Advisory Board Meeting

The first meeting of the Bessemer Aquaponics Community Advisory Board will be on September 23, 2015 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Guilford County Agricultural Center on Burlington Road.

Board members from the Piedmont Center for Sustainability and representatives from the Agricultural Center will be on hand as well.

In the interest of open meetings and transparency the public is invited to attend.

Those wishing to Donate... Well that was the link, click it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


If you'd like to support Bessemer Aquaponics you can mail a check in any amount to the:

Piedmont Center for Sustainability

619 Candlewood Drive

Greensboro, NC  27403


Make your checks payable to the Piedmont Center for Sustainability but in the for line be sure to write Bessemer Aquaponics so they will know which account to put the money in. Otherwise your donation will go towards the PCS general fund.

We'll start building the nation's first accredited Aquaponics school in association with NC State University, NC A&T University and the Guilford County Agricultural Service as soon as the money starts rolling in.

Thank you. 

If your company would like to sponsor Bessemer Aquaponics simply send an e-mail to and I will be more than happy to do whatever is needed.

Thanks -Billy Jones

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bessemer Aquaponics Has 501 (c) 3 Non Profit Status

Well it's official now, the Piedmont Center for Sustainability is the 501 (c) 3 that will be managing Bessemer Aquaponics. As soon as I find out I'll tell you how you can join and donate to the cause of building a sustainable community through Aquaponics.

After looking at several area non profits I settled on PCS because they are young, educated and excited about the cause. It also helped that they already understood what Aquaponics is, how it works and were already looking to get involved in Aquaponics.

Another reason that sold me on PCS is that they are not and never have been funded by the City of Greensboro or Guilford County. As this is a grassroots project we don't need outside influences taking control for motives that might not align themselves with those of the East Greensboro community.

The PCS board tells me they look forward to working closely with our community advisory board, the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Service, A&T State and NC State University as we work to bring the first fully accredited Aquaponics school in the United States to Northeast Greensboro.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Community Forum: How Can Aquaponics Change Our Community

From a flyer produced by the Guilford County Agricultural Center:

"Who: Open to the Public

When: August 12, 2015 6:00 to 8:00 PM

Where: The Guilford County Agricultural Center3309 Burlington Road, Greensboro, NC. 27405 (See map below.)

"North Carolina Cooperative Extension, along with some county and community partners would like to hear what the community thinks about opening up a teaching/research Aquaponics Facility in the vacant adjacent lot to the Guilford County Agricultural Building. The goal of this forum is to introduce this idea to the community and receive feedback from the presentations.

We will be discussing the concept of aquaculture; how can this system become an economically viable option for producing food, jobs and income. Dr. Harry Daniels, North Carolina State University's Aquaculture Specialist, and Paul Begue, Aquaponics Research Specialists, will be giving short informative educational presentations to discuss the benefits of aquaculture.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Cooperative Extension Office at (336) 641-2400. We hope to see you there!"

Remember friends and supporters, this is the big one. We need a big turn out, lots of community support and all of you telling everyone you know to be there to learn about and support this effort. Assume nothing except that you have to tell everyone.

And if you'd like to distribute fliers I still have a few. Send me an e-mail at

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

When Is Our Next Meeting?

People are always asking when is our next meeting. To make things easier and so you'll always know I've added a Meetings link to the navigation bar at the top of the page. Anytime you want to know when the next meeting is scheduled just click on the link above.

Don't see it? Try refreshing your page.

Our next scheduled meeting is July 16. Click the Meetings link for more details.

Also, on August 12 an Aquaponics expert from North Carolina State University will be here to tell Greensboro more about what we're doing. I'll tell you more about that at the July meeting.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Where Will The Money Come From?

I must admit when I wrote Imagine a week or so ago the post reads like pie in the sky dreams too big to come true. Our vision isn't small either. After all, a project like I'm talking about won't be cheap.

I've since learned that loans up to $300,000 are available under the USDA Farm Services Agency. We don't even have to own the land as many farms are on leased property. I'm hoping we can get a dirt cheap lease from Guilford County.

But $300,000 won't build classrooms and offices.

So I've made arrangements with Bessemer United Methodist Church on Bessemer Avenue to rent temporary classrooms and office space at prices we can afford. The church is 4 minutes away from our chosen site on foot, 40 seconds by car.

And $300,000 will build 1 big greenhouse with an aquaponics system inside. Temporary offices and classrooms plus one permanent greenhouse will be enough facilities to get us started. As a matter of fact: NC A&T University plans to build several greenhouses about a half mile away on Lombardy Street for a project they're calling an urban farm and they're only spending $300,000.

To our advantage, the A&T project will require that a new parking lot be built. We already have a parking lot-- it simply needs some work.

Of course there are going to be other expences-- a lot of them.

Qualified professors don't work for free. Neither will the rest of the employees. Volunteers will help but there will still be payroll to meet.

Thankfully USDA grants are available. There might also be grants from NC State University and NC A&T University as we hope to have both schools involved. That said, no one has signed on any dotted lines just yet so everything remains speculation.

We'll have to buy seeds, furniture and office equipment. Believe you me, I'm not above taking hand me downs from wherever we can get them.

Corporate sponsors are a possibility. As a matter of fact, Salvage America has already agreed to be a corporate sponsor. As a 501 (3) c we will be able to solicit tax deductible funding from anyone. In case you're wondering, the owner of Salvage America is a former employer of mine. When he found out I was doing this he picked up his phone and called me to ask how he can help.

There's several local suppliers and manufacturers who would stand to make a lot of money if an aquaponics school were built here and an industry was created around it. If they don't find us first I plan to track them down.

As far as getting our non profit status goes, I'm in discussions with existing non profits about doing the project under their supervision. No decision has been made but working with an existing 501 (3) c would speed up the project by about a year allowing us to take donations right away.

Of course, donations from the public will also be acceptable.

Perhaps the best thing about the model we are using is the fact that while we need money to start, we won't always need money. By running an actual aquaponics production facility at the school (the only practical way to teach aquaponics) we'll be able to derive income from sales of produce and fish while taking in tuition from the students we teach.

And in the future when we finally build that visitor center I'm dreaming about we can also take in more profits so that in a few years Bessemer Aquaponics will be funding economic development, small businesses and other non profits all over Greensboro, all over North Carolina, and beyond.

Our next meeting is July 16. Why not come out and talk about how we can get this done?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Imagine... turning off of Bessemer Avenue/Burlington Road in East Greensboro, the Bessemer Community, where the old rock walls and stately white oak trees from the 1940s or before still decorate the front of what we now call, Bessemer Aquaponics-- the first fully accredited Aquaponics school in the nation-- now stands.

You park in the parking lot taking a minute to read a historical marker there telling you the history of the site, once a county old folks home then the recreation facility for the soldiers stationed at the Overseas Replacement Depot. You learn it later became the first racially integrated hospital in North Carolina when the North Carolina Convalescent Hospital was built there during the Polio Epidemic of the late 1940s and 1950s. And later, again an old folks home until being torn down over 40 years before and abandoned for over 4 decades while grass and trees covered everything there including the asphalt parking lot.

You read how it was once home to the 7th and 8th graders from Bessemer High School back in the 1960s when the Bessemer Community was so strong the school system was unable to keep up and how during those very same years part of the building was used for a county jail where a young man named Jessie Jackson was once held. Yes, that Jessie Jackson.

Outdoor works of art made entirely by local artists adorn the grounds and gardens everywhere you look with both fixed and ever changing pieces on display. This is done at no costs to local artists as a service to the local artists community who were so supportive in spreading the word about this project as many of them are also very interested in sustainability for Greensboro. And rather than spend precious local dollars on buying art from out of town we though it better to display local art in the hopes of helping our local artists sell their works.

The chain link fences surrounding the property are covered in plants. Later you will learn some of those plants are hops used in the making of Greensboro's many local beers and other vertically grown crops to numerous to name.

Walking inside you see the free visitor center where freshwater fish are swimming on display in big tanks and the locals are buying fresh, organic, aquaponic grown produce and fresh fish. You see videos and vivid explanations about what goes on there. You see books and study guides for children and adults. And a free guide to local attractions packed with lots of discount coupons printed by a local printer and published by a local publisher.

A group of 5th graders walk past to their activity bus waiting in the parking lot half way through a field trip that includes a visit to the Siquarium across town-- a distance made much easier to travel because of the recent completion of the new Greensboro Urban Loop, aka I-840. Having learned about hundreds of different freshwater fish and Aquaponics they make their way to gaze at the rarely seen saltwater varieties in the aquarium there.

You see the rows of Greenhouses fulled with fish and plants. As you walk closer each one has a brass plaque denoting the year it was built and who helped to pay for its construction. You realize this place wasn't built overnight but in a series of stages as time and money permits.

Another group, farmers and businessmen, walk past drinking coffee, discussing the markets and debateing the success of the newest aquaponic farm to open nearby. They discuss the pros and cons of urban farms vs. rual farms and come to the conclusion that it depends on your target market. The praise Aquaponics 3.0 developed first at NC State University but taught first here. How could we have gone from an importer of foods to a major exporter so quickly, you think. Then you're reminded of how Greensboro had long invested in infrastructure and logistics that were just begging for products to haul away. This was the regional solution the politicians has sought for years, right in front of your eyes.

Next door at the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Service, people line up to view the demonstration garden. The Ag Service had to hire full time tour guides but it's not a problem because the cost is covered by a grant from Bessemer Aquaponics that also helps to fund Agricultural Extension county wide.

You know you are in a special place.

Behind the visitor center are the offices, classrooms and rows of greenhouses where fish and plants are raised and farmers, be they lifelong farmers or new to the trade, study to become experts in the most advanced forms of agriculture in the history of the work-- able after a few short weeks in class, to grow food anywhere it's needed.

You overhear people talking about how much better Greensboro and North Carolina's economy has become since Bessemer Aquaponics was founded, with all the new businesses starting up and people working again. How area non profits no longer need to play political games with elected leaders to get the funding they need. People are working day and night exporting Greensboro's fish, fruit, vegetables and the aquaponics equipment built by small and large manufactures located nearby, to places all around the world. And the profits from Bessemer Aquaponics go not into someone's pocket but towards funding other needed programs throughout Greensboro and Guilford County.

You think about the fact that Aquaponics, a 5000 year old technology, grows 6 times the food while using only 2% of the water of conventional agriculture and you ask yourself, "Why did it take us so long?"

If you can imagine our vision then please share this story with everyone you know and attend our next meeting.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Our 4th Meeting: July 16, 7:00 PM

Time for another gathering, this time on Thursday, July 16 at 7:00 PM.

Where: under the shade trees in front of the empty field due west of the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Office 3309 Burlington Rd (Link to Google map: ) Thursday May 21, 7:00 PM.

Bring a chair, something cold to drink (Sorry, no alcohol as this is County property) and interested friends-- lots of interested friends.

I promise there's lots of good news to share with those who are interested.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Next Step: A Board Of Directors

We've found 20 acres in east Greensboro.

We've found a potential design engineer with experience in Aquaponics.

The Guilford County Agricultural Extension Office is working with us and is willing to bring Aquaponics experts from NC State University.

I've located a nearby church that will rent us temporary office and classroom space until our own building is built. And it's only a 5 minute walk.

Our first corporate sponsor has pledged to help.

I've shown how Bessemer Aquaponics can become the biggest economic generator to come to Greensboro since Cone Mills.

We have a vision.

We have volunteers ready to work.

Grant money is available from the United States Department of Agriculture and possibly the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

But without an active Board of Directors we are stuck on hold. We cannot form a 501 (3)c without a board. We cannot apply for grants without a board. And we cannot accept donations without an active board of directors.

Are you someone who can step-up, fill this void and actively work to build Bessemer Aquaponics thus bringing the Nation's first accredited Aquaponics school to Greensboro and make Greensboro a world leader in this emerging technology?

If yes then e-mail me at

And please, share this post with everyone you know.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our First Corporate Sponsor

I'm happy to announce tonight that I've been able to secure sponsorship for Bessemer Aquaponics from Salvage America Inc., a locally owned and operated recycling company located at 3001 Holts Chapel Road in the Bessemer Community of east Greensboro.

Salvage America buys scrap metals and other recyclable materials from individuals and companies, has been in the community for 10 years, employs numerous local residents and is dedicated to our community's success.

Oh, and the dinosaur on the sign out front at Salvage America? The owner of the company has 3 young children who thought a dinosaur would be cool.

Good News!

As we get ready for our 3rd meeting tonight I'd like to bring you up to date on the latest happenings at Bessemer Aquaponics.

Bevan Suits, an industrial engineer and Aquaponics designer with AquaPlanet LLC has sent us an extensive proposal outlining in great detail how he can help design and build our system based on proven designs researched at NC State University.

I have secured temporary office and classroom space at Bessemer United Methodist Church within walking distance of our Bessemer Aquaponics site.

On Saturday I presented my ideas and vision before members of the Greensboro Partnership at The Forge. They seemed impressed and have already started advising me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Our 3rd Meeting: Thursday May 21, 7:00 PM

We've got over 20 acres and so far all we've looked at is the parking lot. Come on out and let's do some exploring, see what's in the woods, if any of the old buildings and stables remain.

Wear long pants and real boots or shoes, be prepared to venture into the woods. Bring a canteen or a bottle of water. Go at your own risk.

When I was young there were Quonset huts and horses there but all you can see from the road is over 40 years of trees. I know who the horses belonged to but what happened to everything else? Are there buildings there we could use? Don't worry, we won't get lost, I used to play there as a child.

I've got lots of good news to tell you all.

You'll find us  in the empty field due west of the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Office 3309 Burlington Rd (Link to Google map: ) Thursday May 21, 7:00 PM

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What Could Bessemer Aquaponics Do For Greensboro And The Piedmont Triad

Aquaponics has the power to put locally grown, quality organic food on Greensboro tables that might not otherwise get it. That alone should be enough to convince Greensboro, a city with over 23% poverty, the highest unemployment in the state of any comparable city and the hungriest population in the nation to jump at the chance to convert over 20 abandoned, County owned acres located slap dab in the middle of one of Greensboro's poorest neighborhoods into an Aquaponics school and production facility.

Sadly, that won't be enough to get our community to act. Sadly, in this town you've got to show people how they can profit before they'll extend a hand.

For those of you average citizens who are simply worried about getting quality produce at good prices:
"Production can occur year-round under a greenhouse or in a temperature-controlled enclosure.  This allows producers to market fresh produce during seasons when trucked-in produce is at their highest seasonal prices."

How about this, Greensboro developers, Aquaponics can fill your empty old buildings. All around the world what would have been abandoned buildings are being turned into Aquaponic farms.

For the downtown Greensboro restaurant owner: want the freshest ingredients possible year 'round to impress those Irving Park customers with money to spend and demanding tastes? Our location is 3 miles due east of downtown-- just follow East Market Street. The vegetables in the farmers market will never be as fresh and they don't sell fresh fish.

For the downtown business owner, no matter what type of business you own, wealthier Greensboro communities mean more people shop and do business downtown. Since 1957 the leaders of downtown Greensboro have waged war against Greensboro communities in the name of downtown development with the end result being a completely dysfunctional downtown development organization that forever remains in constant turmoil. When our communities thrive so will downtown.

For Greensboro's hotel and motel operators: Bessemer Aquaponics will be the first accredited Aquaponics school in the nation. Our goal is to bring 80 to 100 students a month from outside of Greensboro on top of those students who live locally. Those 80-100 students will need to sleep somewhere.

The creation of the nation's first accredited Aquaponics school in Greensboro would mean a boon for Greensboro's already established plastics, chemical, metal and machine industries as equipment, chemicals and parts would have to be made. Already Silicone Sealant, the only kind of sealant that can be used with live fish, is made in Greensboro and fish safe PVC pipe is made in Colfax.

With all the concern about food deserts and food insecurity the lucrative cut flower industry often gets forgotten. That's right, those imported roses and carnations you just bought for Mothers' Day could be grown using Aquaponics right here in Greensboro. From the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center:

"Cut flower imports in 2012 were valued at $615.7 million, a 30 percent drop from 2011. Colombia was the largest supplier of cut flowers, providing flowers valued at $480.1 million, a 15 percent decline from the previous year. Ecuador was another main supplier of cut flowers, followed by Mexico and Thailand.  (FAS)

Roses are the leading cut flower imported into the United States. In 2012 fresh rose imports were valued at $367.3 million. Imported fresh mums were valued at $128.9 million, and imported fresh carnations were valued at $82.5 million. In each case, Colombia was the largest supplier, and Ecuador was usually the second largest supplier.  (FAS)

Imported nursery products except for cut flowers were valued at $1.0 billion in 2012, jumping 51 percent from 2011. Canada was the largest supplier of imported nursery products, followed by the Netherlands and Colombia. All three countries experienced double digit or greater increases in the value of their U.S. sales.  (FAS)

Orchid plant imports in 2012 were valued at $65.3 million, decreasing 6 percent from 2011. Taiwan was the main supplier, followed by the Netherlands and Thailand. Flower bulbs continued to be supplied by the Netherlands. Tulip bulb imports totaled $52.0 million in 2012 and lily bulb imports totaled $29.7 million.  (FAS)"

That looks to me as if Greensboro could make major strides towards reducing our portion of the US Trade Deficit.

What about the increased property tax revenue the City and County would receive from the dozens, perhaps hundreds of business start-ups an emerging industry would generate? Isn't that the excuse our elected officials always use when passing out questionable incentive packages?

Bessemer Aquaponics is the regional solution to the problems of unemployment and food insecurity in the Piedmont Triad.

We have 20 acres. The Guilford County Agricultural Extension Service has agreed to bring in Aquaponics experts from NC State University. If we do it right the project will be eligible for grants from the United States Department of Agriculture. Now we need Greensboro to get behind the idea for Greensboro's sake. Please share, please tell your friends, please ask your elected representatives to act now.

Don't assume this is happening. It won't happen without your help.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Give Me Aquaponics Or Give Me Death!

"September 12, 1954: Greensboro is suffering from its first drought in modern history. Since water rationing hasn’t helped, the City Council hires a professional rainmaker who promises to produce rain in 60 days by seeding clouds with iodide crystals."
"October 15, 1954: Hurricane Hazel exacts a death toll in an eight-state area, but brings an end to an extreme drought in North Carolina and Greensboro."

California is now in its 4th year of drought. 12 million trees have died in California's national forests. The price of water and fines for wasting water are going up in California as water becomes more scarse.

The Colorado River no longer runs to the ocean as so much water is pumped off of it the river runs dry before it reaches the coast. Farmers in the California Delta are fighting with farmers to the south over who gets to use the water in the Delta-- who stays in business and who goes broke. The 100 square mile lake in Owens Valley has been pumped dry and is now a dust bowl.

Not only farmers but ordinary citizens and other businesses are at odds with one another over
"riparian rights." Some predict actual water wars as all the best laid plans of central planners crumble under Mother Nature's wrath.

But it's even worse than that. From Think Progress:

"In 2014, some 500,000 acres of farmland lay fallow in California, costing the state’s agriculture industry $1.5 billion in revenue and 17,000 seasonal and part time jobs. Experts believe the total acreage of fallowed farmland could double in 2015 — and that news has people across the country thinking about food security.

“When you look at the California drought maps, it’s a scary thing,” Craig Chase, who leads the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative at Iowa State University, told ThinkProgress. “We’re all wondering where the food that we want to eat is going to come from. Is it going to come from another state inside the U.S.? Is it going to come from abroad? Or are we going to grow it ourselves? That’s the question that we need to start asking ourselves.”

The California Central Valley, which stretches 450 miles between the Sierra Nevadas and the California Coast Range, might be the single most productive tract of land in the world. From its soil springs 230 varieties of crops so diverse that their places of botanical origin range from Southeast Asia to Mexico. It produces two thirds of the nation’s produce, and, like Atlas with an almond on his back, 80 percent of the world’s almonds. If you’ve eaten anything made with canned tomatoes, there’s a 94 percent chance that they were planted and picked in the Central Valley."

But there is hope. Maybe not for California but for the rest of us.

"But a lot of the things that California produces in such stunning numbers — tomatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots — can be grown elsewhere. Before the 20th century, the majority of produce consumed in the United States came from small farms that grew a relatively diverse number of crops. Fruit and vegetable production was regional, and varieties were dictated by the climate of those areas.

“There may be reason for the citrus and some of the nuts that are uniquely suited to the Mediterranean climate, but there’s no real reason that you have to produce all the fruits and vegetables. Those were grown other places before California came in,” John Ikerd, professor emeritus of Agricultural & Applied Economics University of Missouri Columbia, told ThinkProgress."

So why did it happen?

"Ikerd, who taught agricultural economics before becoming an advocate for sustainable farming, grew up in rural Missouri, where he estimates that the majority of the food he ate came from within 50 miles of his home. At that time, the Midwest was still covered with small and mid-sized farms growing a diverse portfolio of crops. Ikerd described a tomato cannery in the town where he grew up, built to process the tomatoes grown in the farms from the surrounding area. Orchards, too, were once plentiful throughout the Midwest, growing apples and fruit for markets both local and national.

But the tomato canneries and the orchards that Ikerd remembers have largely disappeared, replaced by fields upon fields of corn and soybeans, commodity crops that government subsidies help make the quickest, fastest way to profit in the Midwest. From 1996 until the most recent version of the Farm Bill, farmers that grew commodity crops like corn and soil were actually prohibited from also growing specialty crops like fruits and vegetables on their land. Anyone who grew a specialty crop on land meant for subsidized commodity crops would have to forfeit their subsidy and pay a penalty equal to the market value of whatever specialty crop they grew, a policy that did little to discourage farmers in the Midwest from becoming large producers of one or two commodity crops. The U.S. government spent almost $84.5 billion dollars subsidizing corn between 1995 and 2012, and a good portion of corn crops does not make it to a plate, instead used as ethanol or feed for livestock. 

Of the corn that is intended for consumption, much of it ends up as high fructose corn syrup, which is now so ubiquitous it encourages maximizing the yield of corn at the expense of agricultural diversity. From 2002 to 2012, the amount of land dedicated to growing the nation’s top 25 vegetables fell from 1.9 million acres to 1.8 million. In the same amount of time, corn production grew from 79 million acres to 97 million.

“The deeper people look at it, they’ll see it’s a deeper part of the whole,” Ikerd says. “It’s not just a California drought problem, it’s a problem with our whole food system.”

I encourage you to read the entire article.

But there is good news for Greensboro. Last night a reporter from  O.Henry Magazine, there to do a story for their July issue listened in and asked questions as a small group of people met on the grounds of what we hope will someday be the nation's first accredited Aquaponics production and teaching facility where people can actually learn how to build and run Aquaponics systems that produce 6 times as much food per acre while using less than 2% of the water of traditional agriculture.

Guilford County Agricultural Extension Interim Director Karen Neill and Extension Agent John Ivey answered questions about Aquaponics and explained the Ag Service's roll in the project including helping to bring in Aquaponics experts from North Carolina State University.

And we'll not have to worry about the weather as Aquaponics is practiced indoors.

Please, spread the word, get involved, change our city for the better and give your children the world you never had.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Aquaponics For Vegans and Vegetarians

Some Vegans and Vegetarians might be deterred from getting involved with Aquaponics because Aquaponics involves raising fish for food but Vegans and Vegetarians shouldn't let that keep them away. You see, there's no rule that says the fish must be eaten. Some Aquaponics growers raise more expensive exotic fish that are sold for pets. Others who are simply practicing Aquaponics as a hobby or to feed themselves and their families the healthiest fruits and vegetables just keep the same fish until they die from old age.

You could be raising Goldfisk, Koi, Oscars, Betta, Tetra, Molly, Guppies or no telling what other kinds of fish. Even giant catfish and turtles if you build it right.

You see, the fish convert fish food into organic fertilizer for the fruits and vegetables and in turn the plants filter the toxins out of the water to keep it safe for the fish. The way Mother Nature intended just more intense through the use of technology.

That brings us to another possibility for Bessemer Aquaponics. If the members and board of directors wanted to go this route we could open the world's first Aquaponic Aquarium open to the public.

The water from the aquarium could be piped to a greenhouse where the plants are grown separately. This would allow filling the greenhouse with CO2 at night to speed up plant growth without adversely affecting the health of fish or people.

And an Aquarium in the neighborhood, even a relatively small Aquarium, would go a long ways toward making East Greensboro a better place to live. Maybe children could get in free so they've always a safe place to go and learn.

Isn't it time Greensboro had a few firsts?

Our second meeting of Bessemer Aquaponics will be on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 7:00 PM in the 20 acre empty field due west of the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Office 3309 Burlington Rd (Link to Google map: ) Long time residents will recognize it as the former location of the Polio Hospital and a nursing home both torn down about 40 years ago and left vacant ever sense.

What To Bring: a folding chair unless you prefer to stand. Friends.

Who is invited? Everyone who is interested in creating jobs and bringing quality food to Greensboro.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Another Reason To Join Us

 Our second meeting of Bessemer Aquaponics will be on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 7:00 PM in the empty field due west of the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Office 3309 Burlington Rd (Link to Google map: ) Long time residents will recognize it as the former location of the Polio Hospital and a nursing home both torn down about 40 years ago and left vacant ever sense.

What To Bring: a folding chair unless you prefer to stand. Friends.

Who is invited? Everyone who is interested in creating jobs and bringing quality food to Greensboro.

From WFMY TV2:

Before you buy frozen white fish, there is something 2 Wants To Know wants you to know about it
Posted by WFMY News 2 on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Our 2nd Meeting: Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 7:00 PM

Our second meeting of Bessemer Aquaponics will be on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 7:00 PM in the empty field due west of the Guilford County Agricultural Extension Office 3309 Burlington Rd (Link to Google map: ) Long time residents will recognize it as the former location of the Polio Hospital and a nursing home both torn down about 40 years ago and left vacant ever sense.

What To Bring: a folding chair unless you prefer to stand. Friends.

Who is invited? Everyone who is interested in creating jobs and bringing quality food to Greensboro.

Now on to today's news:

This morning I met with Guilford County Agricultural Extension Agency Interum Director Karen Neill, Extension Agent John Ivey and Earline W Parmon, Director of Outreach for Congresswoman Alma S Adams. I'm happy to announce that all are in support of Bessemer Aquaponics and will be working to help us connect with the proper people, places and offices to get started growing.

The extension service reiterated that they are willing to bring in Aquaponics experts to guide us but that Bessemer Aquaponics and our community will be responsible for the management of the school and production facilities. Ms Parmon indicated there are USDA grants available.

Come on out and let's make Greensboro the first place in the nation where you can go to school to learn Aquaponics.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Not A Food Desert, It's A Food Prison

Ron Finley of South Los Angeles’ is a guerilla gardener who believes you can grow your way out. At Bessemer Aquaponics we believe it too. And we believe Aquaponics is the answer for Greensboro where unlike South Los Angeles’we have winter.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Bessemer Was Born And The Site We've Chosen

And A History of The Community Bessemer Aquaponics Commemorates

First there was Julius Alexander Gray: one of Greensboro's earliest elites:

"Gray's early years were carefree; he never was exposed to systematic labor, and he enjoyed good health and a strong body. After attending Caldwell Institute near Greensboro, he studied with the Reverend Jesse Rankin in Lexington. He then entered Davidson College as a sophomore in 1850 and was graduated in 1853."

It goes on:

"In 1855, he became teller and bookkeeper of the Greensboro branch of the Bank of Cape Fear. The president of the bank was Jesse H. Lindsay, Gray's brother-in-law and a brother of Mrs. John Motley Morehead."


"Because of Gray's strong support of Zebulon Vance for governor in the election of 1876, Vance appointed him a director of the North Carolina Railroad."

And this one you don't hear often anymore:

" Because of this remarkable achievement and Gray's other activities, Greensboro regarded him as the keystone of its prosperity."

That's right, Julius Gray and not the Cone Brothers. It was in-fact Gray who later managed those railroads his friend, Governor John Motley Morehead gets credit for bringing to Greensboro but it was John Motley Morehead who was the president of the NCRR establishing Greensboro's tradition of crony capitalism.

Gray didn't stop with railroads.

"In the 1880s Gray was also involved in ancillary business activities. In 1887, he helped to found the North Carolina Steel and Iron Company, which constructed blast furnaces in Greensboro in the hope of using native coal, iron ore, and limestone to make the city a steel center. The venture failed when the local iron ore proved to have too much titanium and was difficult to smelt."

That's right, too much titanium. A problem any miner would love to have today. That steel mill was built on the site where the Cone Brothers built Cone Mills. Bessemer Avenue, Bessemer Elementary School and what was once Bessemer High School, Bessemer Jr High School as well as the Bessemer Community were all named for, according to the Guilford County Schools:

"Sir Henry Bessemer, an English engineer and inventor, who founded the process for turning ore into steel. This was later know as the "Bessemer Process".

Funny, had the Cones not come here we might be in the titanium business today. It's also been reported that the Steel Mill graded 20 miles of streets before going out of business including Bessemer Avenue. While some will argue that point, Bessemer Avenue was known to exist before both the Cones and the City of Greensboro came to our community. And Bob Clendenin is right that Bessemer was named for the inventor of the Bessemer Process as there are no references to anyone named Bessemer in Greensboro history.

As the site of the steel mill was near where Bessemer Avenue intersects with Battleground Avenue, Bessemer originally extended in an arch that reached from Battleground Avenue east to about Penry Road (about 8 miles) and south to McConnell Road and included what we now call ORD, Woodmeer Park, Kings Forest, Aycock, the mill houses and almost everything east of Murrow Blvd. In the 1919 map of Greensboro below you'll note that Bessemer Avenue wasn't on the map despite the fact that Bessemer School first opened its doors in a one room schoolhouse on Bessemer Avenue in October of 1900.

An abandoned Bessemer rock quarry from which the stone was mined to build Greensboro's well known historic neighborhoods like Fisher Park, Irving Park, Aycock Historic District, College Hill and others remained unfilled until just a few years ago on the corner of Phillips and Lombardy. I used to play in that rock quarry as a child despite my mother having forbidden me to go there.

While most histories of Greensboro seem to be written in such a way as to make it appear there was nothing in the Bessemer Community prior to Greensboro. Even the News & Record seems not to acknowledge Bessemer in their list of Greensboro neighborhoods. But this photograph taken on Holts Chapel Road just about 300 feet south of East Market Street bears evidence that a community existed there long before most of Greensboro was ever built. Click on the photo to read the inscription or drive by as its still there.

Why is it a concern that references to Bessemer seem to be getting lost? Well let me put it this way, in this 2008 City of Greensboro survey of historic Greensboro neighborhoods the historic Glenwood neighborhood was left out and never considered for historic designation. Today 100 year old fully restored homes in Glenwood are being bulldozed. Glenwood was once under consideration to become the capitol of North Carolina. No properties in Bessemer have been given historic designation.

Yes, Bessemer was standing on its own long before Greensboro expanded its borders. From Textiles, Teachers and Troops:

In 1906  St. Leo’s Catholic Hospital opened in what was then Bessemer on the corner of Bessemer Avenue and Summit Ave. The first modern hospital in the area, St Leo's would become famous in 1914 when Charles and Will Mayo of the Mayo Clinic practiced surgery there.  Greensboro would not annex the area until at least 1946 as evidenced by the fact that prior to 1946 the United States Army operated a military base there with properties that include the site chosen for Bessemer Aquaponics.

This blueprint from 1923 shows Bessemer Park just to the northeast of our chosen site with the County Home being shown in the top right corner. Rankin Avenue would eventually be renamed Hern Ave.

Photo courtesy of Terry A Wilson

ORD (Overseas Replacement Depot) originally called AAF Basic Training Camp No. 10, opened on the southeast corner of Bessemer and Summit on March 1, 1943 and closed in 1946. The famous actor Charlton Heston was among the 9,000 men to be stationed there along with captured German POWs.

Bessemer High School made quite a name for the community as Bessemer Boys, known as the Whippets, were known far and wide for their athletics:

 "The Bessemer High School sports teams were known as the Whippets. Whippets are sleek but muscular hunting dogs prized for their speed, power and agility. 

Bessemer football players certainly lived up to the image. They were a powerhouse in 6-man football in the 1940’s, then continued the tradition after switching to an 11-player team in 1945. They were the North Carolina State Champions in 6-man football in 1941. In the 1950’s & 60’s, they made four trips to the State Finals game, but a second football State Championship eluded them. Still, being four time State Runners-Up is an accomplishment of which any school can be proud.

   1941 – 6-man State Champions   1953 – State Runner-up (lost to Massey Hill, 20-0)
   1954 – State Runner-up (lost to Edenton, 41-20)
   1958 – State Runner-up (lost to Williamston, 26-20)
   1962 – State Runner-Up (lost to Brevard, 19-13)

The Bessemer baseball team gave the school a going away present in 1963. The Whippets won the State Championship by defeating Chapel Hill, 5-2."

The Greensboro Yellow Pages from 1957 has 3 listings under Parks and Playgrounds. One of those listings is the Bessemer Community Center. Annexation was completed in 1958, the community center closed in the late 1960s and finally replaced a few years ago with Peeler Recreation Center on Sykes Avenue where the Bessemer Community had previously operated a baseball field.

The Bessemer Community Center was owned jointly by Bessemer Methodist Church, Bessemer Baptist Church and Bessemer Presbyterian Church. Built, I think in the 1950s, the building still stands today at what is now the dead end of Easton Road.

 A block away from the community center the 31 man Bessemer Fire Department, one of the first in the state, was "listed as members of the North Carolina State Firemen's Association from 1945 through 1958."

While the Lee Street Biff-Burger (now Beef Burger) was built in 1961, by 1958, before annexation was completed, the Biff-Burger on Bessemer Avenue, Tasty Freeze on East Market and McDonalds on Summit had all already been built giving east Greensboro 3 fast food restaurants before Greensboro got its first. Monroe's Drive In on Bessemer Ave was also built before annexation.

On September 11, 1958, Clarks opened the first big box retailer in the Piedmont Triad in an old tobacco warehouse just a few hundred yards east of where the Agricultural Extension Office is located today. As it was the only place with air conditioning in those days the parking lot would often be filled with more bicycles than cars on hot summer days as children from all over Bessemer went there to cool down. The old warehouse that became Clarks still stands today.

So what happened to the Bessemer Community? From the City of Greensboro website:

 "From the turn of the century to the late 1950s, the East Market Street Corridor flourished. It was the shopping and social center for many of Greensboro's African Americans, who owned businesses on the street and provided services to those shut out by segregation practices in other Greensboro neighborhoods.

This lively community began to wind down in the late 1950s and 1960s when, under the guise of "urban renewal," thousands of people and more than 80 businesses (many minority-owned) were displaced. Most of those businesses never reestablished."

And from the book, Once Upon A City, a account attributed to former Mayor Jim Melvin:

As you can plainly see, Greensboro's greatest families, the Cones, Richardsons, Dillards and Benjamins, for which streets, parks, buildings and hospitals are named, all did their part to destroy the Bessemer Community.

And as evidenced in Bessemer Improvement Company vs the City of Greensboro, even the City took advantage of those who were working on behalf of Bessemer then passed the blame off on the state.

The site we have chosen for Bessemer Aquaponics has quite a bit of history of its own.

In the mid 1800s and early 1900s, Guilford County operated a retirement home there for people without means. On old maps and blueprints the property is referred to as County Home. A search of the Guilford County Register of Deeds indicates that the property we have chosen was bought by Guilford County in 1859 for $1140 and used as the County Home. References seem to indicate that someone else was already operating a "poor house" on said property.

In the 1940s the site was used by the United States Army as the recreation hall for the Overseas Replacement Depot-- the military base that was located in Bessemer during World War 2. As Greensboro's white USO club was located on North Elm and the Black USO club at Market and Dudley Streets this may have been the site of an officers club. Myself and many others remember the big white building that once stood behind the rock walls.

In 1950 a bowling alley was built where the Agricultural Service stands today. That building remains.

 It would not be until 1958 that the City of Greensboro would annex these areas.

In the midst of the Polio outbreak of 1948 the Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital, known locally as the Polio Hospital, opened on Oct. 11, on the very same site with new buildings being added behind the existing building. The Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital was the first racially integrated hospital in the State of North Carolina.

In  1963, and 1964 the site was used as classrooms for Bessemer Jr High School's 7th and 8th grades.

Also, in 1963 the Evergreens, North Carolina's largest non profit nursing home system opened their first facility on the site.

1963 was a busy and historic year for the site as demonstrating students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technological University were held in jail at what had been the Polio Hospital as well. A historic figure known today as the Reverend Jessie Jackson was one of those to be incarcerated there.

In 1968 the Agricultural Extension offices and demonstration farms were built  on roughly 10 of the 33 acres. The rest remained abandoned. The Polio Hospital was destroyed shortly thereafter and most of the property was forgotten about. We believe because of the history and heritage of this site that no better use than an institution that not only teaches men to fish but teaches them how to build their own ponds should be built there.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Represenative Pricey Harrison Offers Support

I got the following e-mail today after inviting Congresswoman Pricey Harrison and others to a closed meeting coming up soon:

"Thanks for your continued tenacious advocacy on this.

I don't think I can be there on April 27 but please let me know how I can help.


It's good to know that Congresswoman Harrison, like Alma Adams, is truly interested in real economic development for Greensboro, the Piedmont Triad and all of North Carolina.

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Modern Aquaponics was developed at North Carolina State University at taxpayers' expense 30 plus years ago. The world's foremost experts in Aquaponics still work for NC State. Experts are teaching Aquaponics in Eastford, Connecticut via the UConn Extension Master Gardener program.

Kentucky State University is pitching the idea that Aquaponics can create jobs and grow more food.

Folks in London, England are practicing Aquaponics on a commercial scale inside old commercial buildings.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee they are using Aquaponics to  "engage individuals with significant cognitive disabilities and provide training support in activities of daily living," and calling it the food of the future.

In Oklahoma the Indian Nations of the Seminole, Choctaw, Cheyenne and Arapahoe are all going Aquaponic.

In Berlin, Germany:

 "Berlin has opened its first commercial aquaponic farm combining aquaculture and hydroponics. The farm is still only small - delivering up to 300 boxes of organic produce per week - in a city of 3.5 million people. But as food security becomes a bigger global concern, aquaponics has the potential to revolutionize food production in cities"

I'm even trying Aquaponics in a small home built system in my back yard.

But here in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked #1 in the United States for the highest level of food insecurity, in the very state where our tax dollars helped to develop modern aquaponics-- if we want Aquaponic fish and vegetables we have to import them.

If we want to be educated in Aquaponics we have to leave Greensboro. There's no place to take a class, no place to see Aquaponics in action or get hands-on experience. This is what Bessemer Aquaponics seeks to become.

Please tell our elected leaders to support this effort and share this article with everyone you know as one solution to Greensboro's food crisis and economic woes. It's time we became a leader instead of the last in line getting nothing but the scraps left behind.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Congresswoman Alma Adams Is Interested

I got the following e-mail today:

"Hi Bill,

I hope this email finds you well.  I handle agriculture and food insecurity issues for Congresswoman Alma Adams.  I saw your post about Bessemer Aquaponics.  I know our staff missed the first public meeting last week on April 8th, but we would like to get in touch with you about the Congresswoman or our staff meeting with you to discuss the business, your collaboration with the Guilford County Extension office, and how we can help. 

James Hauser
Legislative Assistant
Rep. Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (NC-12)
222 Cannon House Office Building"

It's nice to know someone in politics sees there is potential in this idea. I am currently working on scheduling a meeting with Congresswoman Alma Adams and/or her staff members. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Does Aquaponics Work?

A simplified explanation...

Take a pot of clean fresh water.

Put a fish in it.

Feed the fish.

When the water gets dirty then pour that water on a potted plant that is potted in such a way so that the excess water can be captured as it slowly drains out of the plant pot. A lot of sand in the pot might do the trick.

Replace the dirty fish water with clean fresh water.

Repeat that process as often as necessary to keep both fish and plant growing healthy and strong.

That approach would probably work with just 1 fish and perhaps 1 plant. And maybe as your fish got bigger you could add more plants. The fish excrement would provide the necessary nutrients to feed the plant and the plant would filter the water so that it remained safe for the fish just as plants and fish coexist in nature.

Problem is: when you add a second fish and a third, a forth, a fifth and eventually you've got thousands of fish... Wait, that will never happen. There's no way you can pour water from pot to pot that fast doing it by hand, you'll end up having a fish kill long before you get to thousands of fish. At least, you'd better hope your fish kill comes early.

At some point you're going to need an electric powered pumping system to pump the excrement and nutrient rich water up to the plants where gravity can let it fall back down to the fish tank. At some point you're probably going to need filters to improve water quality to keep your fish healthy. And you're almost certain to need to add oxygen to the water to support the large numbers of fish you'll be stocking in your tanks.

Aquaponics simply mimics the natural cycle of water contaminated with animal waste to compost to plant food to clean water returned to the pond. The difference is: in Aquaponics we use technology to push the boundaries and increase production of fish and plants. What we're really doing is concentrating and speeding up the process.

From Wikipedia:

"Aquaponics /ˈækwəˈpɒnɨks/, is a food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In normal aquaculture, excretions from the animals being raised can accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity. In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrification bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilized by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system."

Also from Wikipedia:

"The development of modern aquaponics is often attributed to the various works of the New Alchemy Institute and the works of Dr. Mark McMurtry et al. at the North Carolina State University." 

That's right, modern Aquaponics was pioneered here in North Carolina over 30 years ago at taxpayer expense. I think it's time we capitalized on it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

So How Much Food Can We Grow?

The answer varies but the following video from Growing Power, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin non profit founded by retired ABA basketball professional Will Allen shows how they grow 1 million pounds of food per year on 3 acres.

Will Allen only has 3 acres to work with. The track of land we are looking at is over 20 acres-- 33 actually, but part of it is in use.

And remember: the intention of Bessemer Aquaponics is to teach others how to do Aquaponics so that Greensboro, the Piedmont Triad and North Carolina Aquaponics businesses, farms and suppliers can start up with qualified and experienced managers and employees be they urban or rural.

Are you a Facebook user? If yes then check out our Bessemer Aquaponics Facebook page.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Interesting And Enlightening Facts About Aquaponics

*Aquaponics uses only 2% of the water as is required by conventional agriculture to grow the same vegetable harvest. Plus you get fish.

*A well designed Aquaponics system uses far less energy than conventional farming.

*Properly designed and managed Aquaponics systems have zero waste, discharge and environmental impact as all wastes are converted to useable products.

*Aquaponics can be done indoors in abandoned industrial and commercial buildings.

*Aquaponics can be done in small spaces.

*Root crops like carrots and beets have been successfully raised using Aquaponics.

*While first used thousands of years ago by the ancient Aztecs and 5,000 years ago in Asia, modern Aquaponics is  attributed to the New Alchemy Institute and Dr. Mark McMurtry et al. at North Carolina State University.

*What kind of plants can you grow? From Wikipedia:

"Most green leaf vegetables grow well in the hydroponic subsystem, although most profitable are varieties of chinese cabbage, lettuce, basil, roses, tomatoes, okra, cantaloupe and bell peppers.[23] Other species of vegetables that grow well in an aquaponic system include beans, peas, kohlrabi, watercress, taro, radishes, strawberries, melons, onions, turnips, parsnips, sweet potato and herbs.[citation needed] Since plants at different growth stages require different amounts of minerals and nutrients, plant harvesting is staggered with seedings growing at the same time as mature plants. This ensures stable nutrient content in the water because of continuous symbiotic cleansing of toxins from the water.[25]"

*What kinds of fish can you raise? Again, from Wikipedia:

"Freshwater fish are the most common aquatic animal raised using aquaponics, although freshwater crayfish and prawns are also sometimes used.[26] In practice, tilapia are the most popular fish for home and commercial projects that are intended to raise edible fish, although barramundi, silver perch, eel-tailed catfish or tandanus catfish, jade perch and Murray cod are also used.[23] For temperate climates when there isn't ability or desire to maintain water temperature, bluegill and catfish are suitable fish species for home systems. Koi and goldfish may also be used, if the fish in the system need not be edible."

*Some experiments with raising salt water fish and seafood with Kelp are also being done in some Aquaponics operations.

*Aquaponics facilities can be placed closer to actual markets than conventional farms and can actually be placed right in the neighborhoods they serve reducing the need for transportation, storage and refrigeration.

*Aquaponics is always organic.

*The use of Aquaponics gives us better control over our food supply.

*85% of the fish and seafood sold in the USA is imported. Some countries that export fish to the United States raise their fish on a diet of manure or in sewers. While our government may consider such practices safe we at Bessemer Aquaponics believe we can and will do better.

*How does Aquaponics compare to traditional agriculture?

 “It grows six times as much food as a traditional farm would in the same amount the space, but it’s using less than a tenth of the amount of water,” -- Kevin Jones, science instructor at Randolph Community College.