BEAVERCREEK — Kimball and Stephanie Osborn are breaking new ground in Greene County agriculture. Actually, make that water.
The couple founded and run Oasis Aqua Farm, an aquaponics farm in Beavercreek. They offer tours, a how-to explanation on their growing method as well as their products – a variety of organic produce and protein sources – to the community.
“Aquaponics is different from hydroponics in the fact that we have fish,” Kimball Osborn said. “Hydroponics infuses some sort of fertilizers into the water. We actually feed the fish and the fish make the fertilizer for the plants. … Without the fish, the plants would die and without the fish, the plants would die.”
The seeds are started in a fashion similar to other farming methods, but the difference is that the roots are eventually transplanted and grown in a tub of water with fish and crayfish swimming below. The symbiotic relationship between the fish and the produce take place as the produce provides nutrients for the fish while the fish clean the water for the produce, allowing the fruits, vegetables and herbs to be grown without the use of chemicals. The Obsorn’s are aiming to avoid the use of pesticides as well by introducing critters such as ladybugs and wasps to the system and allowing nature to take its own course.
The temperature-controlled environment that surround the produce also sets this method of farming apart from traditional avenues as fruits and vegetables can be grown year-round, offering the Kimball’s an opportunity to grow varying produce not typically found in the local community. It uses about 500 gallons of water in each tank, which is 5 percent of the amount of water traditional farming methods require, according to oasisaquafarm.com.
“Its nature working together,” Kimball Osborn said. “And we can control the environment, so we can do it year-round. We can control the temperature in the water and the temperature [in the greenhouse].”
They can sprout a variety of lettuces, including bibb, buttercrunch, rocket, arugula, salanova mix and spinach, in addition to kale, watercress, swiss chard, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, carrots, bok choy, kohlrabi and peppers. Herbs include cilantro, oregano, chives, rosemary, mint, thyme and basil, among others. Their plans for the future include even more offerings to be rotated throughout the growing cycles.
“The whole system works by the bacteria breaking down the fish waste,” Kimball Osborn said. “Same way it does in the ground with the worms breaking everything down and making it available for the plants to use – same idea, just faster in the water.”
It started with a small fish gifted to their children by a grandparent. Kimball Osborn, an Air Force veteran and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base civilian employee, wished to put the fish to good use. He started researching aquaponics farming, leading him to Environmentally Controlled Sustainable Integrated Agriculture CEO and founder Glynn Barber of Redkey, Ind.
Kimball describes Barber’s mission in starting aquaponics-style farming as a wish to get his son off of pharmaceutical drugs by using the power of wholesome fruits and vegetables lacking the use of chemicals, pesticides and genetically modified organisms.
“The good thing about this, because the plants aren’t stressed … they’re going to grow faster, they’re going to grow healthier and they’re going to taste better,” Kimball Osborn said. “ … They’ve done studies on insecticides and pesticides and all that stuff and [have found that] it’s carcinogenic. We take that stuff in and it damages our bodies. Maybe not right away, but it happens. We see [an] increased [chance] of cancers.”
“Genetically modified plants are all around us and we will not use that here,” he added. “The reason that’s important is because nature can evolve, but science can be fixed to resist drought [and other challenges in nature], but our human bodies haven’t had the chance to catch-up yet. We’re putting stuff into our bodies that we can’t use because our bodies don’t know what to do with it. That’s one avenue we chose – no GMO plants in our systems.”
Inspired by the potential of aquaponics, the Kimball’s sold their home, bought a farm and built a greenhouse. They utilized loans and money tucked away for retirement to establish the needed equipment, sowing their first seeds on Jan. 22 this year.
Community members are invited to the growing facility for tours, in addition to a membership (otherwise known as community-supported agriculture) that guarantees a basket-full (3/4 of a bushel) of organic produce, to vary throughout the season, on a weekly basis for 12 to six weeks at a time, depending on the selected membership price. Twelve weeks of produce costs $400, while six weeks costs $200.
Oasis Aqua Farm is located on 2450 Beaver Valley Road in Beavercreek. For more information, visit oasisaquafarm.com or Facebook.com/oasisaquafarm.
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.