Business: Oasis Farmery
Jake Wildman-Sisk and Andrew Mathis are no strangers to the fast-paced world of startups. The two friends met on a trip to Boston where they toured the student startup hotbed at MIT’s Deshpande Centre. However, in their own entrepreneurial venture, Oasis Farmery, Jake and Andrew are getting accustomed to a decidedly slower pace.
“That’s the thing about working with living things,” says Jake. “Even with aquaponics speeding up the process, plants take time to do their thing and you can’t really rush them.”
Oasis Farmery is an aquaponics outfit in Fredericton, using a closed loop system of fish waste to grow herbs and vegetables. Right now the Oasis system consists of prototypes designed and engineered by the team, both a large outdoor system and an indoor countertop model.
“Our prototypes came in under budget just by being resourceful” explains Andrew, patting the 1000 litre fish tank of their large outdoor model which is actually a retrofitted bulk molasses container. “With a little more practice we think we can get that price down even lower.”
Jake and Andrew started the program thinking they would build a local food business by selling fish and vegetables. But after market research and experimentation they realized the greatest value of their work is the wisdom they have accumulated. Through the trial and error of building multiple aquaponics systems this summer, the team has learned a lot about where to find supplies, what not to do, and what shortcuts are available. As their produce and fish slowly grow into the system, they have taken systematic notes and practiced careful, patient observation.
“It’s not like software where you can make a mistake and just code up a different version overnight.” says Jake.
Fredericton has turned out to be an excellent place to learn resilience - Oasis has survived a hurricane and highly variable temperature already. Jake and Andrew aim to pass on valuable knowledge by designing home aquaponics kits with their wisdom built in, and offer educational workshops on growing food aquaponically, especially for children. They also plan to expand their farm site by building a greenhouse for year-round growing and experimentation.
“We just launched our Kickstarter campaign to build the greenhouse system,” says Jake. “We need $10,000 to get everything set up for the winter so we can supply organic, fresh produce all year.”
As they prove their system can survive the harsh extremes of Maritime weather, the team hopes to expand their business to help other cities find solutions for growing local food. The resource efficiency of aquaponics makes it especially promising for water and land scarce cities. But for now Jake and Andrew want to build a durable, affordable, and beautiful aquaponics system at home and make Fredericton a leader in local food production.