Back to the Roots is a company best known for producing the popular oyster mushroom grow kits that you can find in grocery stores around the country. Now, the team behind the mushroom craze has expanded its scope to the realm of aquaponics with a new self-cleaning fish tank that grows food. The table-top fish tank is a compact, closed-loop system geared towards educating kids about food production, and it makes aquaponics accessible to everyone.
Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora, a pair of UC Berkeley undergrads who scrapped plans to go into investment banking and consulting and instead launched a business around growing mushrooms in recycled coffee grounds. By mixing good design with local food production, they were able to make growing mushrooms fun and accessible to people around the world. Now, the hope is that Nikhil and Alejandro will be able to do for aquaponics what they did for mushrooms.
Aquaponics is a marriage of aquaculture with hydroponics. The waste (yes, the pee and poo) from fish is filtered through plant roots, providing essential nutrients to the plants, which in turn filter the water and keep it clean. Although most commercial aquaponics operations include fish that can be harvested for food, the Back to the Roots model is small enough that you would probably only want to use goldfish or other small fish. However, you can harvest all the herbs you desire from the top of the unit.
Back in November, Back to the Roots launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for the home aquaponics kit, raising nearly $250,000 to fund the production of the tanks. The kit, which includes a tank with an air pump to deliver nutrients to the plants, a mix of herb seeds, fish food, and pebbles, is now available for preorder for $60.