Success Story

Innovative growing system has secret ingredient


AquaGreens co-founders Pablo Alvarez and Craig Petten. Photo courtesy of Humber College.

There is increasing pressure on food providers to offer locally grown, sustainably resourced options to customers but AquaGreens co-founders Pablo Alvarez and Craig Petten believe they can help.

Urban farming is a growing movement that uses urban spaces (rooftops, small gardens, warehouses) to grow food that can be sold at farmers markets and other local markets. They target a niche market to supply local grocers and restaurateurs.

AquaGreens is dedicated to providing the most nutrient rich, locally grown organic greens and tilapia to grocery stores and restaurants in Toronto. The company, located in Mississauga, is passionate about strengthening local communities through the celebration and awareness of aquaponic food production in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally responsible. AquaGreens is moving towards a goal of providing farm fresh produce directly to the Toronto urban centre.

AquaGreens uses aquaponics to grow fresh local organic greens and herbs such as lettuce, basil, arugula, lettuce and mint. Aquaponics creates a closed‐loop, innovative growing system where plant roots are grown in a nutrient and highly oxygenated water instead of soil.

The secret ingredient to the AquaGreens system is tilapia – a fresh and warm water fish which helps provide nutrients for the plants. The tilapia’s waste is converted into plant food, and in return the plants clean the water for the fish. It is an ongoing life cycle that benefits everyone involved! Aquaponics also reduces the water consumption of traditional farming methods by 90 per cent, and increases the growing time of produce by 50 per cent, allowing cost reduction and increased yield to meet the growing demand for local produce. Their approach is also 100 per cent pesticide, herbicide and fungicide free, meeting another market demand from health and environmentally conscious consumers.

Craig and Pablo celebrated their Grand Opening earlier this year, inviting everyone who was a part of their journey. “We're so glad to be celebrating this special day with everyone that was involved, the journey has been long but well worth it,” says Co-founder Pablo.

AquaGreens belongs to Humber College's HumberLaunch Campus Accelerator, which receives funding from Ontario's On-Campus Entrepreneurship Activities (OCEA) Program, managed by Ontario Centres of Excellence. 

This story was provided by Humber College.