Aquaponics Farm To Bring Fresh Food, Business Opportunities To Phoenix Refugee Population

Published: Monday, April 25, 2016 - 10:54am
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(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Timothy Olorunfemi (on the right) explains how the Aquaponics Incubator Farm will work.
(Photo by Christina Estes - KJZZ)
Farmer Hussein Al Hamka looks forward to learning aquaponics so he can grow his special produce year round.

A once vacant lot near 17th Avenue and Camelback Road will soon be home to fish, produce and entrepreneurs. The International Rescue Committee unveiled its Aquaponics Incubator Farm by offering public tours.

Timothy Olorunfemi walks visitors through the climate controlled greenhouse featuring 14 plots where refugees and other community members can learn how to grow plants and raise fish in the same space, a soil-less process called aquaponics.

“Because of the fish waste, it’s going to provide the nutrients that is needed by the plant," he said. "Then, the plant take the nutrient and clean up the water and they turn it back to the fish. “ 

Olorunfemi’s employer, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), created the program to provide fresh, organic food to the community and business opportunities to refugees like Hussein Al Hamka.

“I arrived in Arizona in March 2009," Al Hamka said.

Al Hamka already farms in traditional plots and is looking to learn aquaponics so he can produce even more of his special produce. He calls them "Al Hamka cucumbers," which are grown from seeds from his native Iraq.

“My seeds from my father, grandfather," Al Hamka said. "Maybe 100 or more years we have the seeds."

Al Hamka hopes someday to open his own production facility. The IRC also hopes to turn the empty building in front of the greenhouse into a kitchen and retail shop. 

The IRC will hold classes and workshops on aquaponics open to all community members. Anyone interested can contact Olorunfemt at [email protected] or 602-433-2440, ext. 188.


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