Two college grads, pursue their dream to start up their own aquaponics farm
Danny DeBiasi and Stephen Ziadeh met in college at the University of New England in Biddeford Maine, their freshman year. Since graduating in 2014 with degrees in Aquaculture (sustainable seafood farming) they have dreamed of starting their own Aquaponics farm. In April of 2021, that dream finally became a reality, when they planted their first plant under East Coast Aquaponics LLC.
East Coast Aquaponics, located in Milton Mills NH, now grows romaine lettuce, green and red butter lettuce, green and red salanova lettuce, bok choy, swiss chard, basil, cilantro and kale.
You can find Danny and Stephen selling their aquaponics produce at the Sanford ME, Rochester NH, and Dover NH farmers markets. They also sell to Ira Miller’s General Store in Milton NH and the surrounding neighborhood.
Our food has a story and we at Seacoast Eat Local decided to ask about the story of Danny and Stephen and about their experience as new farmers.
How does the aquaponics growing system work?
East Coast Aquaponics uses a unique aquaponics system to grow their produce. “Aquaponics combines aquaculture and hydroponics. We raise koi fish and extract the waste to be mineralized. The mineralized waste is then introduced to our hydroponic system where the plants take up the nutrients from the fish waste. In turn, the water is then filtered by the plants and can return back to the fish nice and clean. It is really its own little ecosystem! This allows us to stay away from fertilizers and pesticides.”
Why do you think it’s important for consumers to eat local?
“Eating locally is good for the environment and our local community! Currently California and Arizona account for over 90% of head lettuce produced in the U.S. This means that the produce has to travel over 2,000 miles in refrigerated trucks to get to our plates! To keep lettuce that fresh requires the use of pesticides and chemicals to keep it from going bad before it enters our local grocery chains. When you buy from corporate food chairs, your money helps a CEO buy their 3rd vacation home! By supporting local farms, you are helping your neighbors buy clothes, book bags, notebooks for their kids and pay their mortgage or rent! Eating local is great for the community!”
How much time do you put toward your business per week?
“Stephen and I (Danny) both still work full time at our other jobs while growing our farm. Stephen works in the private sector of ornamental Aquaculture. Danny is currently working at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston managing their Zebrafish Research systems. We are putting in 40 hours each at our “regular jobs” and 40 hours a week building our farm! Although farming doesn’t feel so much like a job because we are so passionate about it!”
What is the best and most challenging part of your job?
The best part about farming so far has been seeing our returning customers with nothing but positive feedback. They are able to notice the difference between our lettuce due to the ph pens for hydroponics that we measure with and the stuff they buy from the large grocery store chains! The freshness, taste, and crisp you can get from a local farm really isn’t comparable! The toughest part has been balancing our friendship/ business partner relationship. (We are doing pretty good!) We must prioritize our relationship as friends as well as making sure we are both holding up our own ends of the business! Friends first and business also first! Luckily we are more like brothers nowadays.
To find more about East Coast Aquaponics follow them: @eastcoastaquaponic