One of Iowa’s only aquaponic farms is now providing fresh produce and fresh fish year-round. The centerpiece of All Seasons Harvest near Cedar Falls is a climate-controlled 6,000 suare foot greenhouse. Bob Moulds is president and CEO of the facility. Moulds says he and his two sons have been fine-tuning their products for more than a year.
Moulds says, “We raise fish to produce nutrients in the water of which bacteria converts the waste from the fish into usable nutrients and provide the food for the plants.” The fresh water fish are tilapia, the 6th most common seafood product in the U.S. They’re being raised as part of the 9,000 gallon closed system.
Moulds says they’ve experimented with plenty of plants. “We’ve planted snow peas, we’ve planted cayenne peppers, miniature zuccinis, we’ve tried strawberries, cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes and a lot of different herbs,” Moulds says. “We have zeroed in on the best thing here — lettuce, herbs and kale.”
State horticulturalist Mike Bevins says many Iowa produce growers have dabbled with ways to let them start the season early or end it later, but All Seasons Harvest has combined all sectors of hydroponics and aquaculture under one roof. “The fact that it’s self-contained is just so cool,” Bevins says. “It’s a great example of a sustainable system. In this kind of a system, animal waste isn’t considered a pollutant or a toxic material, it’s a crucial nutrient for plant growth. It really demonstrates that symbiotic relationship between plants and animals.”
No herbicides, insecticides or other chemicals are used in the process as they would harm the fish. Moulds says he’s frustrated their products can’t be labeled “organic” as they’re not grown in dirt. He hopes to develop a label for his product and others like it to be classified as “all natural” but it may take years to get U.S.D.A. certification.