Friday, July 13, 2012

As of Right, Conditional, and Forbidden (City Hall recap)

Earlier this year, Mayor Menino and the Boston Redevelopment Authority established a working group of urban agriculture professionals, community leaders, and governmental employees that meet once every month at City Hall to propose a revision to the zoning code. The first meeting was a public forum held downtown at Suffolk University as was keynoted by Will Allen of Growing Power.

The revision to the code is known as Article 89 and is slated to be presented to the City at hearings by February of 2013. These working group meetings give some incite and transparency to the process, and have steadily become more heavily attended. We had a news crew at the meeting this week.

For the purposes of our project, I've highlighted some elements of the current discussion around aquaponics:

Currently, aquaponics is not currently addressed in the Boston Zoning Code and is therefore a
'forbidden' use.  Forbidden actually means that the operation must to go through a more lengthy series of approvals for a zoning waiver - including a public hearing, a design review, and a code review.

The proposal presented by the BRA's working group to amend the code is as follows:

(b) Aquaponics facilities shall be subject to the
following use regulations:
(i) In all manufacturing and industrial subdistricts,
aquaponics facilities including the onsite
processing of food shall be Allowed.

(ii) In all commercial subdistricts that do not
contain residential uses, aquaponics facilities
up to 5,000 square excluding on site
processing of food shall be Allowed and
aquaponics facilities up to 25,000 sf excluding
on site processing of food shall be Conditional.

iii) In all residential subdistricts, aquaponics
facilities that are accessory to an Urban Farm
shall be Conditional.  (yes!)

All aquaculture, aquaponics and hydroponics
facilities greater than 2,000 sf in any commercial
district and industrial subdistricts shall be subject
to Comprehensive Farm Review

What the proposal means for our project:

The reality is that our 256 square foot project is below the threshold of and can be considered personal use within an accessory structure. The building setbacks and height restrictions that apply to these structures has been strictly adhered to in our design process.

The fact that our tiny project is communal and that the products of the project will be sold for profit at the Frederick Douglass Market does raises some code issues.

Ultimately,  the system will take a year to produce edible fish, and we will have new regulations in place at that time to have the aquaponics system (specifically the fish component) appropriately inspected before sale.

How much are we going to produce you might be asking? The vision of the pilot is to test just that - given our crop selection, geographic location, and our system/enclosure design. That said, check back soon to see some of our projections!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

New Support Tiers and Incentives!

Hello PC Supporters! We're very excited to introduce our SUPPORT TIERS as incentives for your donations! T-shirts, pint glasses and stickers are some of the rewards for donating just $55! How about naming a fish, plant, or even grow bed? We're offering private tours and home-made meals using our ingredients! Consider a tax free-donation via our Crowdrise page today!

(Don't worry folks that have already supported us - you'll get your schwag soon!)

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I can't wait to get these little guys in our system... and then EAT THEM! We'll have more details soon about how our supporters can 'name a fish' or 'name a plant' with their donations. Based on my research the best fish for our climate will be the BLUE CATFISH. Here are some stats about our future fish friends from the Aquaponics Source.

Temperature - The optimum water temperature for growth is 75 to 85º F, but fish can survive at temperatures from just above freezing to nearly 100º F. Growth is slow at temperatures less than 65º F and feeding activity essentially stops at temperatures below about 50º F. The maximum water temperature at which blue catfish can survive indefinitely is about 95º F and fish survive only briefly at temperatures above 100º F.  

Time to Harvest -  Estimated time to raise channel catfish from fingerling to food-size fish (1 to 1-1/2 pounds) is between 15 and 18 months.

Age and Growth – Blue catfish grow faster and live longer than channel catfish. They are the largest member of the catfish family. Blues may grow to lengths of over 55 inches and may weigh more than 100 pounds. Maximum life span for blues is unknown but is probably 20-25 years. 

Updates, and next BUILD Day

Hey Crew,

Lauren, Dan and I did not receive the kit on Friday, but it will arrive tomorrow (Monday) and Bobby will be at Lindsey Street to receive it.

Bobby and I also discussed a short term power solution (for the water pump) and we will be working with the neighbors to reach an agreement by next weekend.

We have all of the PVC pipe, hand tools, and lumber needed to install the Aquaponics Kit next weekend, so lets decide if Saturday or Sunday (or both) are best for our next BUILD day!

The Enclosure team has scheduled a design session on the 4th of July so that we will have a clear design moving forward.

Bobby tells me he's got a ton of saplings when we're ready - so let's complete the system next weekend!

Lauren, Kyle and Marilyn are registered for the Urban Agriculture Summit in Toronto and will be presenting on August 17th!