By Jessica Tuggle
FELLSMERE -- The newest farm in Fellsmere is not just about producing high quality shrimp for consumers, but also about showing the community how to get involved with new farming technologies and building better lives.
Cliff Morris, CEO of Florida Organic Aquaculture, created a nonprofit foundation to give back to the community and create outreach programs that promote aquaculture, and thus Florida Aquaculture Foundation was born.
Florida Organic Aquaculture, a new company to Indian River County that will produce shrimp, oysters and a salty green vegetable called samphire, is a high-tech farming and research facility, but the foundation will go above and beyond producing edible products, said Teri Pinney, executive director and treasurer of the foundation.
"Our purpose is primarily to promote, develop and to help people in this area be economically empowered by educating and training in aquaculture, agriculture, hydroponics and aquaponics programs," Ms. Pinney said.
The foundation will also be investing in the community though literacy programs, English-language programs and sponsoring seminars for local farmers and entrepreneurs who are interested in revenue-generating projects in the foundation's specialty fields, she said.
Indian River County residents are familiar with agriculture, due to the history of the area, but the other three areas of focus will be new to most people.
Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations of aquatic creatures such as shrimp under controlled conditions.
Hydroponics is a technique used to grow plants using mineral nutrients in water and without soil, which can eliminate pesticide use and has the potential to yield a higher amount of product, the foundation website said.
Aquaponics combines the two previous fields, and is growing in popularity around the world, Ms. Pinney said.
"Fish or shrimp and plants are cultivated in the same water system and the waste produced by the creatures turns into nutrients that feed the plants, and the plants can also serve as a food source for the fish," she said. "Fellsmere is letting us put aquaculture on the map. It's a very exciting venture."
Showing the youth of the community aquaculture in action will go a long way to educating the community on what the new farming technologies can bring them, she said.
"The foundation is working with colleges and universities to develop a certification program in which students can learn by working alongside the scientists and researchers at Florida Organic Aquaculture," she said. "It will be for college credits and it's very exciting."
For more information about the Florida Aquaculture Foundation, visit www.floridaaquaculture.org. For more information about Florida Organic Aquaculture, visit www.flaquaculture.com.