Developing new, space efficient, growing techniques, with water conservation, native fish preservation, and increased crop yields for small farmers.

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $19,983.00
Projected End Date: 11/01/2020
Host Institution Award ID: G324-20-W7900
Grant Recipient: Forestdale Farm LLC
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Rylan Morton-Starner
Forestdale Farm LLC

Information Products

Coconino Community College Press Article (Article/Newsletter/Blog)
Arizona Daily Sun Article (Article/Newsletter/Blog)
Small Farmers and Growers Colloquium Presentation (Conference/Presentation Material)


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), greens (lettuces)
  • Animals: fish


  • Crop Production: water management
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Production Systems: aquaponics

    Proposal summary:

    Flagstaff, Arizona is a growing city with an increasing demand for local produce. Despite the city’s steady growth, farms and producers in the region remain scarce. This is largely the result of limited and expensive farmland and poor soil, forcing many growers to be creative with small plots. From an ecological and sustainable standpoint, it can be difficult to grow in Flagstaff, as there are limited water resources, making water conservation a critical issue. Many communities across the United States face these realities as well. In addition, most native fish species in Arizona are either threatened or endangered. Our project will develop techniques for sustainable and profitable aquaponic growing of a marketable product while assisting in the conservation of rare native fishes. Space efficiency, water conservation, increased crop yields and native fish conservation are the primary goals. We will show the differences in production and water usage in systems with and without fish and compare them to in-ground growing. By rearing Roundtail chub (Gila robusta) in our aquaponics treatments, we will help protect an important native species in our region, while also providing an example for how farmers can help to achieve local and state conservation goals. There are no examples of this type of growing in our community and our project will develop a model for producers to learn about the benefits of aquaponics and rare species conservation. Our results will be shared with the community, schools, and producers through organized farm tours, workshops, presentations and educational pamphlets.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We will develop aquaponic growing techniques, with space efficiency, water conservation, native fish preservation, and increased crop yields our primary objectives. This project will develop a sustainable example for growers in land limited, arid regions to produce leafy greens while increasing overall productivity and sustainability on their farms. Using an existing high tunnel, we will design space efficient, tiered systems; these will include tanks for rearing fish and two levels of growing space dedicated for intensive leafy greens production. Our yields from these systems will be recorded and compared to in-ground growing. Fish growth will also be monitored and recorded. These self-contained systems recirculate and reuse water creating dramatic decreases in overall water usage compared to in-ground growing. We will record water usage throughout our project and compare the overall water usage from each experimental treatment. Using aquaponics to rear a native fish species for conservation purposes will provide additional specimens for research and conservation purposes while providing an example of how famers can contribute to environmental or conservation goals. At the end of the project, fish will be provided to the state wildlife agency for use in research or conservation projects in our region.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.