Rooster Fricke is quite the fanciful character. Take one look at his pristine collared shirt and jeans scented with earth and you become inundated with the colorful anatomy that is Nobska Farms. A quick glance and stroll around the site reveals every descriptive whimsy on the farm: three dawdling chickens, a flawless landscape of assorted flowers, plants and garden gnomes, one tree swing, some Southern hospitality, and Rooster's long, magnificent mustache symmetrically grown across his upper lip.
Any story where the main character, Rooster, spends his time working with characters like the 'Trinidad Moruga Scorpion' and the 'Zimbabwe Bird' is going to be interesting. For Rooster, aquaponics opens up the potential for not only growing a new product, but also a new approach to agriculture, providing people with another way to grow their own food, no matter where they live or how much space they have.
-- Julie Mirocha, Editor for Edible Cape Cod
This certified-organic chili pepper farm has an air of festivity to it, with peppers sprinkled like pine chips throughout the yard like colorful, heated confetti: long and skinny, short and plump with capsaicin, red, yellow, green, and purple.
Once you learn of Rooster's professional background in engineering at M.I.T. you decipher the concept behind his rather unconventional farming methodology. Grown on less than one-third of an acre and in a self-constructed greenhouse, Rooster is at the forefront of revolutionizing the concept of urban farming agriculture.
Rooster uses high-intensity aquaponic systems to grow over eighty variations of sweet, medium, and super hot chili peppers (scales of heat depend on the level of capsaicin). A scientist by trade, Rooster relied on his pedagogical framework to take on the big challenge of food sustainability: Allow people to grow their own food using less space and even less water.
Cue: Aquaponics. The love child of hydroponics and aquaculture.
Aquaponics is a sustainable system where both plants and fish work together in a symbiotic, recyclable system to grow food. The fish produce ammonia as a waste product, which is circulated to the growing plant beds and converted into nitrates to use as fertilizer. Nutrients are extracted from the waste water around the plants (natural cleaning occurs) and is then circulated back to the fish tank. A closed, reoccuring loop is created that requires little to no external assistance.
If that doesn't entice the inner sustainable farmer in you, perhaps this will: Aquaponics uses 90% less water than conventional growing methods. In a world of increasing drought and water scarcity, this will be a key contributor to transforming urban farming methods in the growing supply-and-demand society.
I had the fortunate opportunity to spend a good long while helping Rooster on the farm. Apart from chasing chickens, shooting off cannons and spending time in his sunny Woods Hole kitchen, I was a student of a self-made agriculture connoisseur. I found myself being swept up in a world of harvesting, aquaponics, intense methodology, the local food movement, farm safety, recycling, and sustainability. More importantly, I learned how a person's unrelated passions could seamlessly collide to positively impact the world of food.