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The Times
  • Aqua Vita Farms owner talks about aquaponics at HCCC

  • Mark Doherty, owner of Aqua Vita Farms, presented “Aquaponics: The Story of a Small Business and its Success in Sustainable Agriculture” at Herkimer County Community College on Tuesday afternoon.

    At Aqua Vita Farms in Sherrill, Doherty uses a growing method called aquaponics that combines fish farming with hydroponic farming.

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  • Mark Doherty, owner of Aqua Vita Farms, presented “Aquaponics: The Story of a Small Business and its Success in Sustainable Agriculture” at Herkimer County Community College on Tuesday afternoon.
    At Aqua Vita Farms in Sherrill, Doherty uses a growing method called aquaponics that combines fish farming with hydroponic farming.
    “The fish provide nutrients for the plants and the plants naturally refresh the water where the fish live, said Doherty. “The growing method replicates systems and relationships found in nature to create a healthy environment where produce and fish can thrive. The result is the freshest, tastiest, safest and most environmentally friendly produce and seafood found in the area.”
    Associate Professor of Business Karen Nagle and Assistant Professor of Biology Jennifer Herzog have been working with Director of Student Activities Vicki Brown to coordinate speakers who can bridge the topics of science, health, technology and small busines.
    Herzog said, “Science and business students will find this talk very informative and relative to their studies, as well as gain an understanding that their future goals can be achieved without leaving the area.”
    As someone who has always had an interest in the restaurant industry, Doherty began his journey as an aquaponics farmer while attending Paul Smith’s College.
    “I always had an interest in the restaurant industry and I had started working in a restaurant at the age of 13. Since then, that is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
    After graduating from college Doherty said he had two major goals. “One was to make a lot of money in the restaurant industry and the second was to get out of dodge and make that money somewhere else other than central New York,” he said.
    After several years of working in the restaurant industry Doherty said life happened.
    Doherty had moved, worked else where and along the way fell in love, got married and become a role model to his eight-year-old step daughter.
    With his newfound outlook on life, Doherty decided to go back to college for a master’s degree in business at SUNYIT.
    Doherty not only earned his degree, but he gained a new outlook on life after taking an ethics course that taught him about the possibility of a global food crisis in the future.
    “There is more than 7 billion people living on this planet and by 2050 the population could reach just over 9 billion. We have a perfect storm brewing on this planet and in the year 2050 the planet could experience a scarcity of food and water,” Doherty said.
    Once Doherty learned of this perfect storm he began to wonder what if?
    “It doesn’t matter if you believe, it’s a matter of if and when it will happen,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Doherty also realized there is a major safety issue contributing to today’s food.
    “The way things are produced is not a safe and ethical as everyone thinks it is, so many pesticides are used on foods to kill germs, but they cause an even bigger health hazard and that’s not something I want my step daughter dealing with several years from now,” he said.
    After seeing what the world could become Doherty decided to work toward a new goal and mix his interest of food and the quality of life to improve the controlled environmental agriculture method through the use of the aquaponic farming method.
    In May 2011, Doherty discovered the former site of Oneida Silver in Sherrill and decided it would be the perfect place to raise produce and fish.
    Doherty now uses a small portion of the building to produce several types of lettuce and fish to sell to wholesale markets and restaurants. “I’ve created a business that is not only sustainable, but helps create great jobs and growth of environmental agriculture production through the Aquaponic Farming method,” he said.
    For more information about aquaponic farming visit the Aqua Vita Farms website at www.aquavitafarms.com.

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