The future of farming is growing in Tampa Bay

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The future of farming is growing in Tampa Bay.

Popular restaurants in Tampa Bay like On Swann in Hyde Park Village can now grow food to order.

“Now, as chefs we get to actually get to pick what we want instead of picking what they have at market, so we’re part of the process now.” said renowned Tampa Bay area Chef Chris Ponte.

Ponte is the owner of the trendy On Swann restaurant in Tampa, and the famous Cafe Ponte in Clearwater.  Soon he will be opening his third restaurant in Tampa, an Italian concept eatery called Olivia.  All three restaurants will serve food grown at Aquaponics Masters in Zephyrhills.

The farm is totally self sustaining.  The 15,000 square foot facility nestled in the fields of Zephyrhills, Florida uses hybrid striped bass that feed the plants, and the plants do a good job of filtering that water which is sent back to the fish.  There is no spillover that hurts our environment and it’s safe for consumers.

“This is the future of farming. It’s eco friendly, it’s efficient and we are using 99 percent less water than a traditional farm.  We are making 12 times more food per square foot than a conventional farm.   We also have the ability to run this off of natural or solar power, so we are totally off the grid.” said Mitch Hawley, who is the Founder of Aquaponics Masters.

Chef Chris Ponte is the first commercial customer of Aquaponics Masters and believe this concept is the future of feeding America.  He feels the more people who step up to the plant and support food that is clean, natural and self sustaining,  the faster consumers will be able to order foods that are good for them at an affordable cost.

“The more people we get to grow organic sustainable project – we can bring down the cost and it will be best for everybody, ” said Ponte.

The farm can grow food in 14-to-18 days, which is two and half times faster than a traditional farm.

With local chefs like Ponte supporting the idea, consumers will get a true farm to table experience.

“This is real food – you can taste the flavor – it’s really high quality in nutrients – it’s like a medicine almost.” said Hawley.  

Hawley has put in 30,000 hours into building this concept, which he believe is one of the largest in Florida and the only one to his knowledge that uses hybrid striped bass to operate the facility.

Yes, the fish will one day be plated too.

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