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Renewable energy aquaponics farm in Little Rock aims to combat world hunger

The aquaponics farm is located at the Heifer International headquarters in Little Rock. The facility has been running for a few weeks. (KATV Photo)

Hunger ending technology powered completely by solar and wind energy has made its way to the Natural State.

Little Rock is home to the world's first commercial renewable energy-operated aquaponics farm.

It's a partnership between HATponics and non-profit organization Heifer International.

Ryan Cox, president and founder of HATponics based out of Georgia, is the mastermind behind the unique spin on aquaponics farming.

"You're using the waste from the fish and the water from the fish to fertilize plants in a fully organic natural ecosystem," Cox said.

It's like an aquarium and traditional farm all in one climate-controlled facility.

"This can produce enough food to feed 150-200 people every day for the rest of their lives," Cox said. "Hunger is not a far away issue, it's an at home issue."

Aquaponics is ideal for communities where there's limited access to fresh fruit, vegetables and other nutritious foods. This could be due to the lack of farmers' markets and grocery stores.

Microgreens, lettuce varieties and strawberries are among the produce being grown at the facility.

"Aquaponic systems are like fine wine. They get better and stronger with age," Cox said.

As the fish get bigger, there will be opportunities to grow cucumbers and tomatoes.

The food harvested is managed by Heifer International, a charity organization based in Little Rock, which strives to curb poverty and end hunger.

According to FeedingAmerica.org, more than 500,000 Arkansans struggle with hunger. One if four children are impacted.

"The missions of of both Heifer and HATponics are very much in alignment, therefore we are beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to work together on our efforts to end world hunger," said Pierre Ferrari, president and CEO of Heifer International.

"We'll also have local restaurants that are interested in the produce and fish and we also work with a large amount of food banks and the like in Arkansas where we donate food as part of our mission," said Bob Bloom, chief financial officer with Heifer International.

Cox envisions down the road that aquaponics powered by renewable energy will become more common in the future across the globe.

Educating farmers across Arkansas about the value technology is the next mission of Heifer International and HATponics.

He said aquaponic systems are rich with economic and humanitarian benefits.

"We can adjust and assist those farmers to become more sustainable in a long term and we can create the jobs behind giving them that permanent sustainability that is so important to humanity," Cox said.

In 2017, HATponics farms fed 7 million people in 22 countries.

To learn more about Heifer International click here.

To learn more about HATponics click here.



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