YYC Farm Series: Tricklin’ Waters

By | April 18, 2017

Tricklin’ Waters is an aquaponic producer, just steps from downtown in Ramsay. It doesn’t get more local than this!

What is aquaponics?
A highly efficient, nearly closed circuit production system. Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics, where the nutrients required by the plants are delivered via water solution. However in this system, the source of the nutrients comes from symbiotic relationships with fish. Bacteria decompose fish wastes, which are filtered through a series of floating tables, into usable nutrients for the plants. Koi fish are the fish of choice at Tricklin’ Water. This is an overly simplified description of the process, just to give you an idea of how it works.

Aquaponics is perfect for Calgary’s challenging climate and short growing season. It allows greens to be cultivated in the city year round. That being said, there are a number of challenges associated with aquaponics. Heating in the winter is a cost that needs to be considered. The closed loop nature of aquaponics systems also means that these systems are highly sensitive. A change in water pH can have a devastating impact. It is also critical to ensure that pests are not introduced to the system. Since there are no natural predators in an aquaponic system and it is such a precisely maintained environment, the presence of pests can quickly become a major problem.

Despite these challenges, aquaponic systems are very well suited for light feeding crops. Light feeding crops are plants that do not have high nutrient demands, such as lettuces and herbs. Heavy feeding crops such as tomatoes would be too demanding for this system, but this method is an exceptional alternative for greens.

A 'filter table' on the left and 'floating grow table' on the right. 

When it comes to herbs and lettuce grown aquaponically, freshness is where it counts. The proximity of this product to the consumer is ideal. Although both aquaponics and hydroponics cannot yet be certified organic (see the post on Shirley’s Greenhouses for more specifics on this), the quality of the product is unparalleled and highly attractive for chefs and consumers alike.

Riley Duigou is the master of the aquaponic system at Tricklin’ Waters. He carefully manages and maintains the system, caring for the plants and fish and keeping the system in perfect harmony. Riley tells me that the Tricklin’ Waters’ basil grows faster than it can be harvested. Currently operating in relatively tight quarters, Riley has installed grow towers which conserve space (see photos). These grow towers drip feed water solution to the plants and make use of vertical space.

As demand for its product increases, Tricklin’ Waters is rapidly outgrowing its current space. While the operation is highly productive, repairs and monitoring can be difficult due to space limitations. Looking to expand and continue to grow (in every sense of the word!), Tricklin’ Waters is on the cutting edge of commercial aquaponic development. Still relatively new, aquaponic systems offer exciting possibilities for the future of urban food production. And there’s certainly no question that Tricklin’ Waters will be leading the charge here in Calgary!

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