MSCS Presenter Andrew Fernitz in the Chicago Tribune

May 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Andrew Fernitz, who presented at this year’s symposium, was featured today in the Chicago Tribune. We would like to offer a public congratulations for his recognition. Check it out! Full text here.

Aquaponic farming operations taking root

Startup companies bet locally sourced fish, produced in self-sustaining habitats, can win over city-dwellers
Amid the worst economy in decades, Andrew Fernitz, 23, thinks he can raise fish and organic produce for a living.While his classmates are searching for jobs at employment fairs and scrambling for internships, the recent University of Illinois at Chicago graduate quit his job as a bartender to join three friends in launching an ambitious new startup. Together they are setting up an aquaponic farm on the South Side.
Among environmentalists and urban gardeners, aquaponics has become a popular new endeavor. By raising fish and vegetables in indoor water tanks, Fernitz and his colleagues aim to cultivate fresh food in the heart of Chicago.They call their venture 312 Aquaponics, and they will have competition. A company called City Micro Farms has an aquaponic test farm on South Wentworth Avenue in Chicago and aims to establish a second one by fall. (They also are experimenting with greenhouses and an “aeroponic” system in which plants grow on a cloth medium.)Yet another startup called Greens and Gills is looking to buy suburban property where it will cultivate 100,000 pounds of fish and 1.5 million heads of greens per year. And the nonprofit urban-farming organization Growing Power is assembling its own aquaponic operation in a former truck depot in Chicago’s Bridgeportneighborhood.These aquaponic farmers are betting heavily that their business will boom, but there remains more than a chance that it could fail because of the unpredictability of a new technology.Nevertheless, the farmers said they are optimistic.”We think agriculture is about to make a great leap forward, just as communications did with the Internet.”Fernitz, along with Mario Spatafora, Brian Watkins and Arash Amini, have sunk $10,000 of their own money into the company. They also procured six months of capital from friend who is a successful poker player.

By Christopher Weber, Special to the Tribune
May 25, 2011
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