Farming with fish, not soil at a new Goleta farm

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A new farm in Goleta is using a method of farming called aquaponics to grow nutrient rich, leafy greens.

“It’s a marriage between aquaculture, which is the raising of fish, and hydroponics, which is growing plants in a nutrient rich water solution,” said Clayton Garland, who co-owns Eco Conscious Aquaponics along with Julian Cantando. The two met while taking a horticulture class at Santa Barbara City College, and started their business shortly after.

You can now find them at the Saturday farmers market in Santa Barbara and the Sunday market in Goleta. KCRW met up with them at the market to learn more.

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Clayton Garland (left) and Julian Cantando (right) are the owners of Eco Conscious Aquaponics (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
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Counter clockwise from top left: Butter lettuce, red vein sorrel, celery and microgreens. (Kathryn Barnes/KCRW)
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In a symbiotic relationship, the fish add nutrients to the water for the plants and the plants filter the water for the fish by pulling the nutrients out. (Julian Cantando)

How aquaponics works

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Goldfish (Julian Cantando)

Catfish, Koi and Goldfish swim in big tubs of water. The waste produced by the fish supplies the nutrients for the plants. In turn, the plants purify the water for the fish by absorbing and filtering the water.

Garland and Cantando stick to growing leafy greens like red vein sorrel, parsley, celery and watercress. Root vegetables are harder to grow without soil.

“The plants are getting 100 percent irrigation all the time, said Cantando. “The roots are constantly in the water and getting the nutrients they need. There’s never any stress so we get this really beautiful and flavorful product at the end.”

The system is re-circulatory, which means water never leaves the system unless through transpiration (loss of moisture through the plants’ leaves), evaporation or harvest.

What to make

Here’s a delicious recipe for Salmon with Red Vein Sorrel Sauce, compliments of the New York Times.

To check out all our past farmers market segments, head to kcrw.com/meetatthemarket.