Business Spotlight: Deepwater Farms
Deepwater Farms brings a new look to sustainable farming in Calgary. With indoor farms that host crops as well as fish, around-the-clock farming and optimized crop cycles, the Deepwater Farms team is stepping into the future and combatting food scarcity here in Calgary.
The Creation of the Deepwater Aquaponic Farm
During his university days, Paul Shumlich researched food security and became intrigued by Aquaponics, a system of aquaculture where waste from marine life fertilizes plants that are grown in water. Closing the loop, the plants purify the water in which the fish swim.
Shumlich thought that aquaponics was a forward-thinking solution for year-round food security. With co-founder Kevin Daniels, the two built prototype systems in their homes and at the university.
By November 2017 a third member, Reid Henuset, joined the group and by February of 2018 the trio achieved their first official sales of aquaponic kale.
Bolstered by this early success, Deepwater Farms moved to a 10,000 square foot facility and hired two more farmers and an operation manager. The move proved fruitful, as soon the first fish sale was made, this time to Chef Darren MacLean (known for his restaurant and his appearance on The Final Table).
In two short years Deepwater Farms has gone from a dream to a full-time farm with more than a dozen staff growing hundreds of pounds of kale, arugula, mustard greens, and more than 30,000 fish.
The Benefits of Aquaponic Farming
"Aquaponic farming is one of several indoor, intensive farming methods that will shape the future of agriculture globally. It's not a magic bullet that will solve all the challenges facing the agriculture industry, but does have a couple of big advantages," says Grant Lahring, sales and marketing manager.
"First, it's intensive. That means that hundreds or thousands of pounds of food can be produced week after week using a very small piece of land. Second, it uses a controlled environment. That means food is produced in a steady, predictable way, leading to consistent pricing and low delivery costs. Finally, it produces both fish and vegetables, which are extremely healthy options for a society dealing with rising levels of obesity and diabetes."
He cites quality as the driving factor of the brand's success. "People try the products we produce, and they instantly fall in love with them. We've got all our eggs in the quality basket and we don't see any reason to change."
Lahring admits that they are farming in uncharted territory.
What is the Secret Behind Deepwater Farm's Success?
"We have been exploring a scientific and technological field that is relatively new. We did it in a way that focused on challenging our own assumptions constantly and I don't think there's anything we could or would change about that approach; but, one thing that we wouldn't change is the team. We've assembled a group of scientists and mavericks who are all completely different, but the chemistry when they come together is magical. We would never think about changing the team."
Since aquaponic farming takes place in an enclosed facility, the farmers experience something most farmers in Alberta can never achieve — year round toasty warm farming conditions!
To date the most popular product produced by Deepwater Farms is the sea bass. Lahring explains, "It's an Australian fish with pearl-colored flesh and tons of omega-3 fatty acids. JF Fortin, the chef at Fairmont Lake Louise added it to his menu this summer and it became the number one item instantly, even when compared with Albertan staples like steak."
How Deepwater Farms Gives Back to the Calgary Community
Deepwater Farms is poised to give back to the world in immense ways as it shows how a little ingenuity, grit, and determination can product thousands of pounds of sustainable, healthy food, but the company also gives back to Calgary in different ways.
"We're proud to provide lots of science and technology roles to Calgarians. We've got a fairly robust internship program and we've been able to provide convenient and relevant work for more than a dozen aspiring scientists already," smiles Lahring.
"As our production volumes increase, we're able to distribute our products through larger and larger sales channels," he concludes. "The next exciting development for us will be launching our fish and greens into mainstream grocery retailers. Keep your eyes peeled!"