Urban farmer transforms LIC to fertile ground

“My plan is to spread the knowledge of how to grow your own food,” Clarke said. “I wanted to show you could grow a high-density amount of food in a small carbon footprint.”

The growing system builds on the local food movement that has spawned urban farms and greenhouses all over the city.

Clarke constructed the aquaponic mechanism last month from plastic tubs, tubes and wood from Home Depot after he read a manual on the water-based growing method.

“I hope to one day see systems like this all across New York,” said Clarke, who lives on the upper East Side. “It’s the most sustainable way to produce food in New York.”

It works by piping fish waste generated by tilapia and goldfish swimming in his 27-gallon tank into a plastic tub filled with water, worms, clay pellets and seeds.

The waste becomes food for the plants once they sprout. They are then moved into an 8-foot-tall pipe system that resembles a bookcase propped up against a wall.

The seedlings continue to be fed the same water circulated through the system through holes in the piping before the liquid is piped back into the fish tank.

“The nutrients all come from the fish,” Clarke said. “I don’t feed the plants at all.”

Christopher Toole, who gives lectures in the Bronx on urban farming, said aquaponics makes growing food easy in the city.

“Aquaponics have caught [on] in the locavore movement, the organic movement [and] the sustainability movement,” he said. “It’s sustainable, it’s economical and suitable for urban and crowded environments.”

Brooklyn College Biology Professor Martin Schreibman said it’s “the wave of the future.”

“This is going to be the new revolution in food production,” he said. “You can raise a lot of food in a very limited areas without using much water or any soil at all.”

ctrapasso@nydailynews.com

Article source: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/1.1021844

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