Provo company builds ‘farm of the future’ concept to save water
Oct 24, 2023, 6:24 PM | Updated: 6:53 pm
PROVO — A startup in Utah County is building farms vertically, and the father-son team said it can save 90% of the otherwise lost water.
They’re now trying to prove that the idea can be profitable and sell it as the farm of the future.
For Sean Burrows, the quest to build something more sustainable started as a project he and his father, Ken Burrows, did for fun.
“We’ve been developing this for well over ten years,” Burrows said. “Just a hobby and a passion and it turned into something that is now a business for us.”
It’s all built on a concept called aquaponics, where fish waste from tanks gets turned into fertilizer to water seedlings down below and plants up above.
“But it never drains anywhere. It goes from the fish tanks into the growing system and then it circulates through the system,” Burrows explained.
He said the challenge in aquaponics is in making it cost-effective and profitable. Their proof of concept will come from this farm they’re building.
“These are very scalable. You can go as small or as big as you like,” he said.
Plastic planters help keep the costs down.
“These towers actually pull out and are really easy to harvest and plant and clean all in one area,” he said.
Eventually, the 1,950-gallon tanks will have some windows,” Burrows said. Stainless steel makes it easier to regulate the temperature inside, making them more energy efficient.
Even the planting process is designed to cut labor costs with the help of sponges made of dirt and coconut fibers. That can be seeded by machine, 36 within seconds. Burrows said the fish and produce will be sold to restaurants and catering companies.
“We’re doing kale and chard and arugula and these top towers.” Anything left over, he said, will be donated to food banks and shelters.
The hope eventually is to sell the business model to others who are looking to take farming in a new direction.