Aqua Greens – From Seed to Restaurant

In a contest of whether Humber College or fish were more important in the success of Aqua Greens, a company that supplies organic greens to restaurants and markets in Toronto, the fish would probably win. But Humber would be a close second.

Tilapia are an essential part of the aquaponics system that Aqua Greens uses to supply restaurants and grocery stores in Toronto with several varieties of basil, as well as dandelions and mustard greens. Aquaponics is a water-based growing method that requires no soil: instead, the plant roots are bathed in highly oxygenated water that draws its nutrients from the waste generated by the fish living in tanks in another part of the system.

As the water is pumped from the fish tanks to the tanks that feed the plants, the ammonia in it is converted to nitrate fertilizer. In turn, as the plants draw on the water, they filter and clean it before it is returned to the fish, in what is called a re-circulating, closed loop ecosystem. A full 90 per cent of the water is recycled.

Aquaponics can significantly reduce the ecological footprint of growing food. Aqua Greens’s indoor aquaponic system conserves land, reduces the distance food travels and uses no pesticides, herbicides or added fertilizers.

Where does Humber come into this? The founders of Aqua Greens, Pablo Alvarez and Craig Petten, are graduates of Humber. Both were working as waiters when they decided they wanted to do something more with their lives. Both enrolled in Humber’s Sustainable Energy and Building Technology program. They did their final project together, on aquaponics — seeing an opportunity to combine their passion for sustainability with their love of good food.

But the company has another tie to Humber: Aqua Greens received funding from the Humber New Ventures Seed Fund and later won the Humber Launch Pad Entrepreneur Award, which led to more than $30,000 in funding as well as giving access to mentors, business plans and business coaches.

Partner(s): Aquagreens
Funded by: Humber College

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