A new way to cultivate in Lenoir City

With aquaponics, entrepreneur to raise fish and vegetables

By Carly Harrington knoxnews.com

On five acres in Lenoir City, Joel Townsend plans to build a greenhouse facility that will grow lettuce and herbs from water enriched with nutrients from fish.

Through his company, Greater Growth LLC, Townsend is embracing a concept called aquaponics, a sustainable food production system that forgoes the use of dirt for a combination of fish and vegetable cultivation.

“This is a great way to be better stewards and a great way to produce a sustainable food supply,” said Townsend, who officially breaks ground today on a new 12,000-square-foot facility at 6800 Waller Ferry Road.

Greater Growth, which will be among the first commercial aquaponics businesses in East Tennessee, will produce certified organic lettuce and herbs. The fish raised will be tilapia.

Aquaponics combines traditional aquaculture, where fish are raised in tanks, with hydroponics, where plants are cultivated in water. In aquaculture, effluents accumulate in the water and are led to a hydroponic system, where the by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients. The cleansed water is recirculated back to the animals.

Townsend’s facility will rely on solar power and filtered rain water. Everything will be grown naturally, using no pesticides, hormones or chemical fertilizers.

Townsend, 55, said he expects most of his business to be wholesale but plans to initially sell at area farmers’ markets. He also plans to be open to the public on Saturdays.

He hopes to have his first harvest of lettuce and herbs by July. Fish won’t be available until next February.