Possibilities for raising more protein with less water consumption? | SteamboatToday.com

Possibilities for raising more protein with less water consumption?

If you go

What: Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and the Community Agriculture Alliance host Talking Green: The Future of Agriculture using Aquaculture and Hydroponics with Kristen Cooper of Gulf Inc. and former State Senator Gail Schwartz

When: 5:30 p.m., June 23

Where: auditorium of Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus, 1330 Bob Adams Dr., Steamboat Springs

— Could fish grown sustainably in tanks complement beef cattle production as one of the primary agricultural activities in Northwest Colorado while buffering the region against the increasing competition for water in the greater Colorado River Basin?

The audience at a program presented by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council June 23 will gain new insights in aquaculture as well as hydroponics when two representatives of Gulf Inc., a supplier for both food methods of food production, speak at Colorado Mountain College.

Former Colorado State Senator Gail Schwartz of Crested Butte, who consults for Gulf, and Gulf’s Director of Sales and Marketing Kristen Cooper were presenters this spring at an ag summit at Colorado State University.

Schwartz told that audience that Colorado ranks 11th in the country in fish production through aquaculture with $12 to $15 million in annual sales, but that the state has the potential to grow aquaculture production to become an industry with $750 million in sales supporting 800 direct jobs by 2030.

Aquaculture is the farming of fresh and saltwater fish or other forms of sea life in controlled situations as opposed to harvesting wild fish. It may take place in tanks in landlocked areas or in pens in the ocean. Tilapia is farmed sustainably by Quixotic farming at the Arrowhead Prison fish farm in Florence.

Hydroponics is the practice of growing food plants without soil in an inert growing medium, which could mean water, or a medium like vermiculite. Precise control of pH (acidity) is one of benefits of this growing method.

“An issue I pursued during my work in the State Senate was that we need to diversify agriculture for the long term,” Schwartz said Thursday. “In Colorado, 98 percent of the crops grown go to feed livestock and only 2 percent we actually consume. This is an opportunity to look at how we produce more protein with less water.”

With the state’s population due to double by 2050, which will increase demand on undeveloped land and finite water, “we can produce more food and protein by diversifying our agriculture,” she aded.

Sustainability Council Executive Director Sarah Jones said it will require creative approaches to feed and provide energy for Coloradans as the population continues to grow.

“When you think about the demand for land that traditional cattle ranching requires, that’s not going to be possible for everyone,” she said. “To provide a different protein source that requires less water seems like an interesting possibility for the economy in general.”

Schwartz told her audience in Fort Collins that it’s possible to produce 4.4 million pounds of salmon on 2.5 acres of land using 10.5 acre-feet of water, with annual re-fills of one acre-foot.

In addition, Schwartz said, Colorado’s relative abundance of geothermal heated water represents a competitive edge that could allow producers in the state to grow a broader range of fish than other states.

Geothermal water and geothermal heat exchangers that capture energy from the soil can also support hydroponic production of fruit, vegetables and lettuce through the heating and cooling of greenhouses, Schwartz said.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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