The Idora neighborhood on the city’s South Side has seen growth in access to fruit and vegetables, thanks to urban community gardens.
Now, it’s looking for a little protein.
The Parkview Community Garden group is planning to build the city’s first tilapia fish farm at the former site of a vacant garage.
“It’s basically an expansion of the community garden project that we have on Parkview [Avenue], and the idea of raising fish came about in conversation at the garden between neighbors,” said Steve Novotny, a member of the garden group.
The fish would be raised in a zero-discharge aquaponics system, which is a re-creation of a natural ecosystem. The fish will be fed a largely vegetarian diet, and the water with fish waste will be pumped into a grow bed with gravel, Novotny said.
The gravel will have bacteria that purify the water, and the fish waste will be used as a fertilizer for vegetables, he said.
“It’s a recirculating, all-natural system. Ideally, we’d like to have the project completed before winter- time,” Novotny said.
The Parkview group is not alone in its interest in a fish farm; aquaculture is the “fastest-growing segment of agriculture in the state,” said Bob Calala, president of the Ohio Aquaculture Association.
Ten years ago, there were 33 licensed aquaculture facilities in Ohio, compared with more than 200 today, he said.
“Fish is the most-efficient protein source that you can produce for the amount of feed that you use,” Calala said. “If you take cattle, you need to feed them so many pounds of grain, and it’s called a feed conversion ratio. ... With tilapia, you have almost a 1-to-1 feed ratio.”
Calala said more people are turning to locally grown produce and fish because they want to know where their food comes from.
The Parkview Community Garden group gathered donations using Kickstarter.com and set a goal of raising $5,000 by Oct. 31. Different levels of pledges included incentives, such as T-shirts from Rusty Waters Apparel and Defend Youngstown.
“We set the goal and the deadline. We have to get at least the goal in pledges before the project is funded. If we raise more, we get to keep the additional funding,” Novotny said.
To donate, go to Kickstarter.com and type “Idora” in the search bar.