Deepwater Farms, a Calgary-based aquaponics company, began as a backyard science project and is now poised for expansion as a growing enterprise.

“I remember my first plant. We’re growing this using fish waste. It’s as good as it sounds,” says Paul Shumlich, president and CEO of Deepwater Farms, which was incorporated in 2015.

Today, its 6,000-square-foot warehouse facility, located in an industrial park in the southeast part of the Calgary, employs three full-time people including himself.

“We are a commercial producer of fresh produce but we’re also an aquaponics platform that serves for integration of other agriculture technologies,” says Shumlich. “We’re really on the forefront of aquaponics and it can go a long way. So we just see an opportunity to serve as a platform that can help push the technology forward.”

Shumlich describes aquaponics as a concept that integrates different levels of the food chain - a living biological system. The only input is fish feed and fish waste which actually provide nutrients to the plants and the plants in turn clean the water for the fish. Water is never discharged. The potential is for each system to deal with the other’s waste.

“Right now, we grow edible fish and we’ll be growing fresh leafy greens and herbs,” says Shumlich, adding that the warehouse will start producing those plants in 2018.

“We’ll be marketing it as local and organic. We’ll be selling to grocery stores as our channel partner. And we’ll also be distributing to restaurants.”

He says Calgary Economic Development reached out to him more than a year ago and asked how they could help with finding investors. Working with CED creates some credibility for a startup and it is very helpful during a company’s early stages and growth.

The organization also helped Shumlich make connections throughout the industry and helped the young company land its facility.

“I think people get the concept of a closed-loop system and the sustainability of it. We don’t see a lot of fish farms in Alberta. I think fish farming has a bad rap. But because we’re doing research-leading aquaculture, our fish are going to be clean and free of any pollutants that you’d find in farm fishing,” he says.

“Beyond that, the ability to grow year-round in Calgary is unique and hasn’t really been done on a commercial scale here. I think there’s a huge opportunity of showing how food production can be done differently.

“It’s an interesting project because it’s like a science project that has serious economic implications and commercial viability. It’s an interesting project you can actually make money doing. People are interested in following along, the support has been incredible. This system works, and people can see that it works. It kind of blows your mind.”

More information about the company can be found on their website.

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