Workers began an indoor aquaponics demonstration Friday by filling a 250-gallon tank with 65 4-inch-long tilapia.
If things go as planned, the fish will grow to 2 pounds each by summer, when they'll be harvested, ready to eat. There will eventually be six tanks producing tilapia on a rotating basis. FoodChain Inc., a Lexington non-profit based out of The Bread Box, is using the project to demonstrate the feasibility of raising fish in indoor tanks for sale to restaurants on an environmentally sustainable basis.
Waste from the fish will be used as fertilizer to help grow lettuce, herbs and microgreens. The plants will help filter the water in the tanks and in turn can be sold commercially. The demonstration is operating next to the Sixth Street Brewery. Grain from the brewery will make up part of the tilapias' diet, and the harvested fish will be on the menu at the new Smithtown Seafood restaurant, which will be opening soon under the same roof.
FoodChain executive director Rebecca Self said the idea is to demonstrate that profitable and sustainable fish-production systems could be set up in empty big-box stores.
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