In a word, aquaponics, and it can revolutionize the way cannabis is grown. Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising fish) with hydroponic agriculture (growing plants and vegetables without soil).
By providing a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants, aquaponic farming mimics natural ecosystems—and it’s wildly productive.
Here’s how it works
You raise fish—usually goldfish, koi, or tilapia (because they’re so hardy)—alongside your crop of choice—say, an nice canopy of Sour Diesel.
Waste-water from the fish tank is cycled through gravel grow beds, where trillions of bacteria convert it into potent, nitrogen-rich fertilizer.
As the plants soak up the nitrogen, they filter and purify the water, which is then returned to the fish, and the cycle is complete—just add fish food.
In a well functioning system, you rarely have to add water and never need chemicals or fertilizer. Environmentally speaking, there’s no better way to grow.
Who’s using it?
Though modern aquaponics has been around since the ‘70s, very few farmers have used it commercially. Certainly, no one in the recreational cannabis industry has tried it—until now.
Local grower Sugarleaf Farms (a.k.a. Funky Skunk Extracts), of Skagit County, Washington, is the first and only large-scale cannabis grower to use this technique.
Their closed-loop system sustains hundreds of large koi and fancy goldfish. And the fish, in turn, give life to hundreds of thriving, terpene-rich, trichome-covered beauties—including Sour Diesel, Lemon O.G., Agent Orange, and White 99.
For founder, Mark Brinn and his partners, developing an aquaponics system was a natural choice and a welcome challenge. Environmental sustainability is one of their core values.
Mark explains, “The biggest advantage of aquaponics is that you can grow plants with 5-10% of the water that traditional agriculture uses. Since the water recirculates throughout the system, the only water loss is due to evaporation and transpiration (which we’re learning you can actually recapture with a/c and dehumidifiers as well!).”
This is huge
According to the USDA, agriculture accounts for 80% of our nation’s water use—and nearly 90% in western states.
As fresh water resources continue to dwindle, it’s only a matter of time before Big Agriculture is forced to make some changes. And when they do, they’ll have pioneers like Sugar Leaf Farms to serve as shining examples.
Sylvia Bernstein, internationally recognized expert on aquaponics and author of Aquaponic Gardening: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Vegetables and Fish Together, writes “On a larger scale, [aquaponics] is a key solution to mitigating food insecurity, climate change, groundwater pollution, and the impacts of overfishing on our oceans.”
And it’s a great way to grow weed!
Once again, the cannabis industry is on the forefront of something larger than itself, daring to take chances and boldly step up for a better world. We do it with medical. We do it with recreational. And we can do it with sustainable farming practices like aquaponics!
For more on local aquaponic grower, Sugarleaf Farms, stay tuned for our up-coming grower profile. We’ll take a tour of their new facility, talk terpenes, and learn how rosin is made—the natural way.
If you want to try some aquaponically grown herb for yourself, come into one of our stores. Check the menu or ask your budtender for strains by Sugarleaf Farms. You won’t be disappointed!