Aquaponic Farm with Fish & Vegetables at a Former Meat Packing Factory at Plant Chicago
This is John Kohler with growingyourgreens.com
with another exciting episode for you today, we’re here in Chicago and I noticed on the
field trip we’re at West 46 Street and Bishop. The plant. The plant is actually a place that
grows food underground actually in the basement at present time, this is actually an old site
of a meat packing plant so I think it’s Peer meat
packing, they used to basically pack meat, smoked meat all kinds of stuff.
I never thought in my growing experience and my growing teaching and teaching people how
to grow foods that I’d be coming to a meat packing
plant especially an industrial meat packing plant at that.
Anyways this building was built in the 1920s and then in about 2006 it was believed
they were shut down through the USDA because it’s a pretty old building.
So because it was shut down it was available for sale then it was purchase and there was
a lot of resources in that building that can be reused, it was a USDA certified facility
for many years, including stainless steel and
all kinds of different material on the inside as well it’s also very well insulated.
The guy that bought the building has real great goals for the building, he wants to
basically turn this and make this a net-zero energy.
So basically he wants to produce all the energy on-site with a special generator and
a bio-gas digester. That’s going to be really impressive once
it all gets finished but right now they’re going through their deconstruction and reconstruction
of the building in to different areas. So there’s going to be many different areas
of the building, this is on a 3 acre site. The yard behind me you can see is going to
be all raise bed and hoop house gardens and row
crops in the future, they’re going to add a green house on to part of the building.
They’re going to then rent out commercial kitchens to people and they’re going to have
other areas, breweries they’re going to add and another area that’s going to be for other
companies growing hydroponically, growing in-doors.
So I think this is a great vision, what I’m here today to do is to go on the tour that
they give. They give the tour on certain days of the
week, costs $10, you come see the place, the old meat packing plant.
You get to see some of the work that they’re doing but also get to see some aquaponics
that are growing down in the basement.
That’s what I’m primarily interested in today aside from the goals that they’re going to
do that is amazing.
They’ve got some stuff that they’re growing and they’re going to be growing hopefully
a lot more really soon. Anyways, let’s head in to the building and
go on that tour. When you arrive for the tour whilst you’re
waiting for the tour to start, you’ll be in this little area.
In this area they have a whole bunch of the different plans and mock ups of how things
are going to go in the different areas of the plant.
This is actually the yard area which they hope to turn into basically vegetable buildings.
With hoop houses to grow in the winter time. So the tour is about to start now, I’m not
allowed to film on the tour but I’ll come back at you and share with you the growth
areas and some of the things about the tour that I learn here for fun.
On the tour here you’ll see many different areas of the plant or this old meat packing
place. It can definitely be a little bit spooky in
some of these areas. You’ll hear about all the different plans
and different things they’re going to do with this old meat processing plant.
Next let’s head towards the light. [laughs]
Let’s head downstairs to see where they’re actually growing some food on site.
Let’s head downstairs to find out what’s happening down here now once again this is an
old meat packing plant, there’s many areas that are currently being refurbished,
from its intended use. This billboard is actually quite cold, I’d
probably use the word dank that I don’t often use.
Here’s the door that leads to the aquaponic system.
Aquaponics what that basically is it’s a combination of agriculture and hydroponics.
It’s a system that actually works very nice, you can see it over there.
They’ve got the main growth area there then they’ve got the fish up in here and the tank
to settle out the wastes. I will look at that in a second but before
that I want to show you guys over here I think they’re using 2 different kinds of
fish here, one of which is tilapia, this is just the fish down here showing what they
look like, they like to hang out in the cover of the PVC.
I guess when the tilapias are breeding they put the small baby fish in to a smaller aquarium
here. Because if the tilapias are babies and they’re
not big enough they don’t work properly in the system, they’ll go down the drain or
something weird. So there’s some small ones in there and natural
algae there in that fish tank. How this system works is based on fish, the
fish produce waste and the waste is then filtered in this section and filtered waste goes over
to feed the plants and then the clean water after
the plants take out the nutrients go back over in to the fish, big fish tanks.
These are actually probably about 300 gallons, approximately totes.
You could find these totes on craigslist depending on where you live for about $100.
They’re just using these totes, they’re already basically ready to go.
All they need to do is cut off the tops of them and you can see here they’ve just cut
out the top and put some PVC pipe and tubing in, hooked
up to this network of piping to pump water through it.
You can see all the fish down in there and there’s a certain number of fish
you’re supposed to put per gallon of the tank, I’m not exactly sure how much that is.
Looks like they’re starting to feed the fish some of the greens they grew but the fish
are attracted to the fish food. That’s the one component that occurs really,
fish food to feed the fish hopefully they hope to
grow their own fish food and use some grains from the brewery that will be on site.
This one has a smaller fish and over in this one some more fish as well.
You can see they have just banks and banks on an elevated platform with banks and banks
of tanks. So once again this one was the side with the
fish and we can twist over to this side, this side is where they are actually filtering
the water, so the water probably goes up into this top thing, then gravity feeds them
in to this next layer where there is some kind
of filtration media which we can’t really see too well then it goes into here where
the water is then filtered out, so all the solids remain
in these tanks. The water goes into these pipes, these are
the solid water pipes for fish tanks 1 & 2. You can see all the piping around here, they
have little ramps over the piping and the piping
then goes into this big large growing area and basically in this growing are there’s
just some simple rafts, this is some foam here that
you can lift up and you can see all the roots there,
because the roots are absorbing the nutrients from the water then they’re growing all this
and all this is arrivla, this is literally like pretty large, maybe 12 feet by about
36-40 feet long. All this arrivla growing here in the basement,
need fluorescent tube lights. Now to me as an outdoor gardener, these plants
look a little bit in anemic. They could be a little bit more darker green
and they are curly. They’re developing and working on this system,
they strive to improve this system to get the healthiest plants possible and
also make this system a system that is going to work
and be sustainable in the long run. Because they are in the warehouse and in the
basement they have some fans going to keep the air
circulating, air circulation is very important to keep the pests and things like mold from
latching on and growing. You can see this growing area is just built
out of 2 by 4 and 4 by 4 posts and some plastics and plywood underneath.
This is just basically a box with an open top and then they put some plastic in there
and staple, they’ve nailed it down to make it water proof, with all the piping and what
not. This is the water that is coming from the
fish tanks. You can see in this one they’re using some
LED lights, that may look pretty interesting on
the camera there, over in that area it looks like they’ve got some sinus or kale, some
kind of other brassicas, things like arruvunal are
growing really well. The LED lighting looks like it’s doing a lot
better than the fluorescent lighting, especially by the size of that dinosaur kale, it’s probably
pushing 2 feet tall right there. This is their seed storing area to produce
this much arruvala they have to have lots of
plants started, they’re doing it right here under the LED lights now the LED lights
are more efficient way of lighting. It’s actually the GlowPanel lights, you can
see here they’re just seeding all this in I think
a hydroton and coconut core mixture. These guys get started in here and then soon
enough they’ll be moved over in this full styrofoam
flat over to the other side when they’re ready. So this is kind of a conveyer belt system.
They’ll put them in here as babies and then they’ll harvest for morning or just move all
these down and then they continue to grow on a revolving
system. We’re finally done with the tour, I’m heading
our and I’ve had a great time, an experience to share with you guys what they’re doing
here. It’s a really nice day here in Chicago today,
it’s actually a lot nicer outside than it is inside.
Once again that building has like 3 inches of insulation on the walls after the brick
and there’s insulation because its a meat packing
place they kept it really cold so they’re doing
some great work here, they have actually a really large vision.
Not growing so much stuff yet but hopefully in the future they’ll be growing a lot more
stuff. If you’re in the Chicago area you might want
to come by and do a tour of the plant. See the long-term vision but also see some
aquaponics going on in the basement. This is definitely a unique place and I wish
them the best in the future. I definitely want to come back in about 5
years when they’re all finished. When they’ve got it all built out this place
is going to be absolutely amazing. I believe this is an excellent use for, or
re-use of old industrial buildings here in Chicago,
and also around the world. Once again my name is John Kohler with growingyourgreens.com,
we’ll see you next time and remember – keep on growing.