Let’s start at the end of my old life and the beginning of my new one. In 2009 I quit my job as a Senior Production Scientist to pursue a Masters degree in Molecular Biology and Business from Oregon State University. This program required an internship rather than lab work as is typical for an M.S. so for my internship I worked at a small aquaponic greenhouse operation in Wisconsin. This greenhouse had a very unique aquaponic system
in place that used cow waste from the neighboring dairy farm to generate heat from burning methane gas using an anaerobic digester. This methane gas heated water in a boiler which then was used to hydronically heat the greenhouse all winter long for very little cost. It was during this internship experience that I learned about aquaponic technology- namely using live fish to grow plants in a recirculating system.
From this internship I wrote and presented a thesis on this small aquaponic business and how they used aquaponics and various green energy components to run a successful business. After graduating from Oregon State in March, 2011 I started thinking more and more about the aquaponic processes and though about its real-world applications toward other markets. I had been toying around with the idea of shrinking a full scale aquaponic system down into a more individual greenhouse size, but found that the initial costs with testing such an idea were too high to be feasible at the point I was in my life. I reasoned that an entire aquaponic system could probably be turned into a very small system, using the plant bed as a filter device for a small fish bowl. In July of 2011 I purchased materials for the first of what would be dozens of goldfish garden prototypes.
I developed a simple airlift system to pump water up into a bed of rockwool planted with mint and basil in a plastic tray and found that, amazingly, my first prototype worked fantastically! I began showing a picture of my prototype to people and received lots of ooohs and aaaahhs, thanks in part to my original photogenic goldfish Adrian. It was after more than one of these reactions to this product that I figured this idea just might generate enough interest to warrant starting a company to develop this product into something professional.