Aquaponics project hopes to bring fresh, locally produced fish to Cincinnati

Local, organic fish are difficult to come by in Cincinnati, and experts do not recommend consuming fish caught from the Ohio River very often. A company called Self-Sustaining Enterprises (SSE) is looking to fill that void with an innovative practice that will bring locally grown, organic fish to the Cincinnati region.

Based in Mason, Ohio, SSE started an aquaponic tank in Jos, Nigeria and is now bringing the prototype to Cincinnati. The aquaponics system works by combining fish farming techniques with hydroponics to create a faux river ecosystem.

Fish fingerlings (perch, catfish, and tilapia in this case) are then grown in the tank. The waste from the fish – ammonia and nitrates -provides food for the plants that are on the surface of the tank where they purify the water by soaking up the nitrates and ammonia.

“Aquaponics is perfect for an urban community,” said Self-Sustaining Enterprises CEO Chuck Proudfit. “We can raise fresh fish and vegetables in a high-density fashion, harvest and deliver them the same day.”

Proudfit says that the goal of the project is to provide fresh fish and produce to local restaurants, food co-ops, and other sources. The locally sourced fish would then leave a smaller carbon footprint behind than fish shipped in from other parts of the world. Another benefit of the system, experts say, is the elimination of the risk of harmful runoff common amongst fish farms.

“With an aquaponic tank the problem [of harmful runoff] is eliminated due to merging aquaculture and hydroponics into a closed-loop system,” explained Pete West, an engineer with Procter & Gamble who donated funds to the endeavor. As West explains, water then only has to be replaced due to evaporation or the removal of solid waste at the bottom of the tank.

Aquaponics is not a complete slam dunk however. Unlike a natural habitat for a fish there is a risk of overcrowding since the fish have only a few hundred feet to swim. This overcrowding makes it necessary for the nitrate, ammonia and pH levels to be checked daily. The more fish that are added to the confined habitat increases the likelihood of high nitrate and ammonia levels – which could cause illness among people consuming the fish.

SSE’s 700-gallon aquaponics project in Cincinnati is operational now, and has the ability to produce 1,000 pounds of fish and fresh produce. Company leaders say that both the fish and produce are growing well and should be available within six to twelve months.

This story was researched and written by UrbanCincy contributor Hailey Mahan. If you are interested in becomming an UrbanCincy contributor please email your resume and field of interest to

Shop locally this season with Cincinnati Unchained and Crafty Supermarket

Shop Local Cincy(disclaimer: Jenny works for ArtsWave, one of the sponsors for Crafty Supermarket. However, it’s too cool of an event not to tell you about it. Sorry boutcha.)

For those looking to circulate money inside Cincinnati, get a head start on their holiday shopping, and support independent businesses, this is the weekend to do it. Saturday, November 19th marks the return of the Crafty Supermarket, a craft fair focusing on “indie crafters, designers, artists, DIYers and other unconventional makers who put a lot of value on locally made goods” as well as the 5th annual Cincinnati Unchained shopping event – over 80 businesses all over the region are offering discounts for local shoppers.

“I think shoppers are increasingly looking toward locally owned businesses as a way to avoid the mall rush, get great service, and find unique gifts you can’t find anywhere else,” said Sean Fisher, one of the co-founders of the Cincinnati Unchained event.

From Bellevue to Wyoming and everywhere in between, local businesses and eateries have committed to awesome deals to help shoppers get a head start on gifts for loved ones this year. The Unchained website has a full list of deals and discounts available.

Every dollar spent at a locally-owned business generates approximately three times more economic activity than a dollar spent at a national franchise. By choosing to shop locally-owned for just one day, we can help support the local entrepreneurs in our own neighborhoods who help make Cincinnati unique.

By filling out a Shopper’s Passport – available at the Crafty Supermarket! – shoppers can be entered to win one of seven gift baskets filled with local goodies. The Supermarket, located again at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, opens at 11 am and goes all day, with DJ’d music, local food, and free gift wrapping by Yelp! Cincinnati.

“Cincinnati cherishes its neighborhoods, and at the center of each of our neighborhoods are small independent businesses,” explained Fisher. “Cincinnati Unchained is a chance to reinvest in our neighborhoods and support our local economy.”

CPA honors Cincinnati’s best preservation projects in 2011

Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) held their 47th annual awards ceremony this past weekend at Hughes High School. More than 70 people attended the ceremony that honored the best preservation projects throughout the Cincinnati region.

Eight awards were given out, in total, in the categories of rehabilitation and sustainability. According to CPA, two of the awards focused specifically on the restoration of public buildings and spaces.

“Cincinnati’s historic public schools represent civic architecture at its best,” said Paul Muller, Executive Director, Cincinnati Preservation Association. “We are proud to honor Cincinnati Public Schools’ brilliant renovation of Hughes High School and the City’s ongoing stewardship of City Hall, as expressed by the restoration of the beautiful Council Chambers ceiling.”

Ten historic structures along Vine Street were renovated as part of the Parvis Lofts development in Over-the-Rhine.

Projects receiving the remaining awards were distributed across the city. A 1926 home in Hyde Park and an 1896 home in North Avondale won awards for their stately renovations. Meanwhile the renovation of an 1870s structure in Northside won CPA’s sustainability award for achieving LEED Gold certification.

The United Way of Greater Cincinnati also won an award for the renovation of its 77,000-square-foot headquarters in Walnut Hills. CPA officials say that United Way’s structure dates back to 1933 and serves as a monument for the neighborhood.

In Cincinnati’s largest historic district, Over-the-Rhine, two projects won awards for their preservation of 13 total structures. Saengerhalle renovated three deteriorating structures built in the late 1800s into 32,000 square feet of office and commercial space.

A block east of Saengerhalle, the Parvis Lofts project renovated ten vacant buildings into 32 apartments which are fully leased. The $10.7 million development also received awards from the Ohio Historical Society and the Associated Builders & Contractors.

“We were fortunate to have a great team that developed Parvis Lofts,” Rick Kimbler, NorthPointe Group partner, told UrbanCincy. “Collectively, we took ten buildings and melded them into one great complex that the community immediately embraced.”

Cincinnati submits $56.8M TIGER III application to fund modern streetcar extension

Local governments across the United States are in the process of competing for $527 million worth of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) III funds. The deadline for applications was October 31, and the City of Cincinnati once again has applied for funds.

Cincinnati’s TIGER III application requests $56.8 million for phase one of the Cincinnati Streetcar. City officials say that the money will go to immediately restore the project’s segments that were eliminated following Governor Kasish’s (R) controversial reallocation of $52 million in early 2011.

“These funds would be used to restore the critical Riverfront Loop and Uptown Connector components that were removed from the original phase one,” said Department of Transportation & Engineering (DOTE) planner Melissa McVay.

Rendering of a modern streetcar heading north along Main Street towards Uptown [LEFT]. Rendering of a modern streetcar in front of Great American Ball Park along the riverfront [RIGHT].

The two segments city officials hope to restore are estimated to cost $56.8 million – exactly matching the City’s TIGER III request. Planners say that the dollar amounts include construction, utilities, two trains, project administration, contingency, and the remaining design elements.

The prospects for winning the TIGER III funding appear much brighter following the defeat of Issue 48. The Charter amendment would have banned the City from making any investments in rail transportation for the next decade, and many feared would have been the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Cincinnati Streetcar. Instead, Issue 48 was defeated and a super-majority of streetcar supporters was elected to City Council.

“Should the city win this federal grant, the Cincinnati Streetcar will not only benefit the thousands of residents, and tens of thousands of workers on its current route, but also connect the approximately 40,000 students at UC with the growing number of entertainment destinations along the riverfront,” explained Brad Thomas, Founder, CincyStreetcar Blog.

The City of Cincinnati was unsuccessful with two previous TIGER applications in 2009 and 2010. TIGER III grant winners are expected to be announced by the end of 2011.

Cincinnati defeats Issue 48 and votes a younger, more progressive city council into office

For the second time in three years rail transit advocates scored a major political victory in November. This year’s victory came in the form of the 51.5% to 48.5% defeat of Issue 48 which would have banned all investments in rail transportation for the next decade.

The defeat of Issue 48 coincided with the overhaul of Cincinnati’s city council. The new council includes a 7-2 majority in favor of the Cincinnati Streetcar (previously 4-4-1), and an 8-1 progressive voting block after four Republicans were not reelected. Also striking with new council is that the three brand new members are all Democrats and all 32-years-old or younger.

Still, the news of the day was the repeated defeat of a measure intended on stopping Cincinnati from building a modern streetcar line and planning a comprehensive regional light rail system. Construction of the Midwest’s first modern streetcar system is now scheduled to commence in the coming months.

UrbanCincy will provide more in-depth updates on the 2011 election results in the coming days, but for now enjoy this exclusive footage from the Cincinnati Streetcar celebration at Arnold’s Bar & Grill last night.