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Aquaponics center strives to create produce, teach community

March 26, 2014 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 26, 2014 at 10:27 p.m.

Rex Byrns, 48, of Victoria, checks on the roots of his Tatsoi green plants in Byrns' new business, Megan's Gardens. Byrns and his wife, Kim, started growing plants using an aquaponics system that uses nutrients produced by fish waste to fertilize plants. Byrns hopes to be open full time the first week of April and eventually provide local, nutrient-rich food to Victoria and create a co-op of local farmers to sell their produce.

When Rex Byrns started growing vegetables, he didn't enjoy greens; he just needed a hobby.

"I liked growing things, even if I just gave them away," said Byrns, 48.

Within the walls of a greenhouse behind Four Seasons Garden Center in Victoria, Byrns has transformed his hobby with the help of his wife, Kim Byrns, into a fully functioning aquaponics system they named Megan's Gardens.

In Byrns' system, a tank of hybrid perch and a separate tank of koi provide the nutrients for the plants.

In return, the plants filter the water to return to the fish, creating a sustainable system ideal for plant growth.

Megan's Gardens has the capacity of growing 1,550 plants, the Byrns said.

The Byrns sell bushels fresh from their garden of lettuce, Swiss chard, kale and many other vegetables for $3 to $3.50 per bunch. Their hope is to eventually make Megan's Gardens a business with a retail store that will help customers start their own systems.

The couple named their business Megan's Gardens after Rex's daughter, who died four years ago in a motorcycle accident. Megan studied microbiology and was a lab technician at Regional Medical Lab in Victoria.

"She really liked fish," Byrns said, "I think she would have really gotten into aquaponics."

The Byrns' plan is to be open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays starting in April.

Their goal is to provide local, nutrient-rich food. Eventually, they hope to create a co-op for local farmers to bring their produce. They also want to develop an awareness for eating local in Victoria.



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