Pittsburgh's newest nursery, Shadyside Nursery, is utilizing aquaponic and vermiculture techniques to raise fish and heirloom vegetables. Located one block north of the Ellsworth Avenue, the nursery is hoping to fill a niche in the local food movement by using sustainable and organic practices.
Co-owner Bill Brittain says Shadyside Nursery is one of a few for-profit aquaponic enterprises in the nation. Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a symbiotic relationship, which allows for conservation of resources and energy.
Brittain and partners Matt Bogel and brother Michael Georges built an aquaponic greenhouse capable of raising 1,500 tilapia, and that currently produces between 100 and 200 pounds of herbs. The system is stocked with young fish which should be ready for sale by March of next year.
The tilapia eat worms, excess produce from nursery beds, and even odd items like stale bagels from the Bagel Factory. Byproducts from the aquaculture then become vital nutrients for the growing plants, which include four types of basil, mint, and French oak leaf lettuce.
The nursery sells heirloom produce grown in raised beds to Spak Brothers Pizza in Garfield, Bryant Street Market, and Mediterrano. And Brittain says the nursery also receives food waste from these restaurants for their vermiculture composting system.
Shadyside Nursery replaces a more conventional nursery that had existed on the same site. In the fall, the nursery will sell pumpkins, and later Christmas trees from Indiana County. And the aquaponics will continue year-round.
Brittain says the nursery plans to raise heirloom tomatoes in the greenhouse throughout winter, with piped heat from compost, and a rocket stove fueled by wood.
Shadyside Nursery, 510 Maryland Ave, Shadyside, 15232. Tuesday to Sunday, 10a.m. to 7p.m.
Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Bill Brittain, Shadyside Nursery