Sunday, June 17, 2012

SweetWater Organics!

The Weissman family took a father's day tour of Sweetwater organics in Milwaukee, WI today...and it was AMAZING.  Some guys formerly involved at Growing Power took over an old industrial space in Bay View that, in it's former life, made the cable for the Golden Gate Bridge! Now the space is host to Lettuce, chard, sprouts, spinach, talapia and perch, as well as an educational outreach organization, and multi-use arts space.

Currently, their indoor system grows mostly lettuce planted in a really great looking system of floating foam panels (called a floating raft system) with holes cut in. Looks a lot cheaper than using a full bed of growing medium. Mark suggested having a good 18-24" of water depth below the rafts. The lettuce is planted in a small plug of shredded bark, and grows in about 40-45 days. The fish come from a local research facility (I think associated with UWM freshwater sciences program) so they get the little guys for free, and sell to high-end restaurants in the city. At their little store the perch was selling for $18/lb...

A lot of their current costs seem to be going towards artificial lighting (mostly high pressure sodium), so they are also building an outdoor system with greenhouses for the plants, and a very well insulated shed for the fish. In this system the water is gravity fed from the fish tanks to the plant beds (through a screen drum filter to pull out solids for compost), and then the filtered water heads to a sump tank under the fishery.

Issues presented:
Summer: lettuce likes it cool - need to find ways to keep greenhouse cool.
Winter: Need to keep water warm enough. DIY solar hot water?!
Pesticides: they use Ladybugs!

Our awesome tour guide, Mark, is actually a water specialist by training, and would be happy to talk to us in more detail. Also, one of the founders of Sweet Water is a local roofer by trade who did my parent's house back in the day. He also went to Wash U (ABD in Philosophy!) and may be up for discussing 'stuff'. I will get in touch.

In the mean time, check out my pics:

1 comment:

  1. I worked with Sweet Water last summer a little bit! Emmanuel Pratt was in Chicago. Cool stuff