Gallery: Behind the Scenes at Aqua Vita Farms, Growing Aquaponic Fish and Produce in Sherrill, NY

Farm in a Box
Farm in a Box
Aqua Vita is housed in an insulated warehouse, and is essentially nature in a box. That means Mark Doherty and his team have to regulate every environmental variable to ensure that their plants and fish thrive.
Aquaponics in a Nutshell
Aquaponics in a Nutshell
A fish tank connected to a plant box, the two feeding each other in equilibrium.
Seedlings
Seedlings
The lettuce seedlings begin like this: tiny stems building their root structure before getting transferred to larger plots.
Plots
Plots
In what's called "deep water" farming, the lettuce sits in a foam raft floating on the water. Plants can be packed more densely than in traditional agriculture, since the nutrient-rich water doesn't have the same limitations as soil.
Rock Wool
Rock Wool
The little squares the plants sit in aren't soil—they're rock wool, a substance made by superheating sterile salt rock into fibers, then spinning it into other shapes.
Roots
Roots
The roots float in the water, sucking up nutrients that pass by.
Medium Farming
Medium Farming
Some plants take better to growing in a substrate rather than in water directly. These beet greens are in a tub of rocks instead.
Rotating Inventory
Rotating Inventory
Grown this way, lettuce is ready to harvest after 28 days, which means that Aqua Vita can adjust their inventory with just a few weeks' notice to respond to special requests from chefs or changing market interests.
Tilapia
Tilapia
The tilapia Aqua Vita raises are grown for food, but they also provide the base nutrients for the plants through their waste products. Yup—fish poop.
Siphon
Siphon
PVC piping siphons water from the fish tanks to the lettuce growing area.
Mark Doherty
Mark Doherty
Mark fell into farming almost by accident. But a good price on a warehouse and lots of research later, he's become an aquaponics leader.