GYO Green's, Helga Tan Fellows offers up organic greens through aquaponics

GYO Green’s, Helga Tan Fellows offers up organic greens through aquaponics – Photo by Rose Hammitt

What is more exciting than someone passionate about what they do? Helga Tan Fellows started up GYO Green this past July. GYO Green shares on their website how they go about growing organic greens in an enclosed sustainable system. “GyoGreens uses a sustainable farming method which combines traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals – in our case, fish – in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. All produce is grown naturally and without the use of pesticides. We rely on beneficial insects and companion planting to avoid using pesticides. We only use NON-GMO and Organic certified seeds for our produce”

As a farmer’s wife and biologist, this caught my attention, anytime a new method of raising food comes down the pike; I think we need to pay attention. While the idea may not be new, someone actually using it is.

The systems basic premise is that they have created a symbiotic circle starting with fish, using their waste as the main nutrient and then allowing the plant roots to filter the water before returning it to the fish tank is the basic premise for GYO Greens. The heart of the operation is under a greenhouse on Canal Boulevard across the street from the Ponte Vedra Community Center. “We have been here since July,” Tan Fellows said. “We started a sustainable aquaponic farming operation.”

Water moves from the 1,000 gallon tank to a smaller one going through two filters. The filtered water then moves into the hydroponic area where the plants are growing through in ground plumbing by hydrostatic pressure. “We use 6,500 gallons of water,” Helga Tan Fellows said, “the beauty is we reuse the water that the plants filter back into the fish tank.”
I enjoyed visiting with Helga and learning that she didn’t start out in the farming or environmental industry, but worked instead in Industrial Engineering. She and her husband Dave Fellows have traveled extensively and lived abroad and she has combined her interest in gardening and promoting environmental sustainable practices in her new business GYO Greens.

Besides wanting to eat healthy food, Helga was enthused to share this information and methods with others. As land becomes scarcer and traditional farming loses footing in urban areas, she is offering a way to grow food in small enclosed environments. These methods may be of particular interest to 3rd World countries and impoverished areas as the need for produce and protein grows.

While Helga and Elia Ballas, work together, they treat their Koi, fish as pets, others farm the fish as well as the produce. Elias, who has a background in fine arts, has extensive experience with aquariums, plants and fish rounding out the needed expertise for Helga’s operation.
Helga took classes from Morning Star Fisherman in Dade City, Florida to learn about aquaponic farming. “I am a farmer now, but not by degree,” Tan Fellows said. “We are having fun growing and learning and sharing the importance of sustainable farming.”

The entire family Helga’s husband and brother and her son have joined in this project as well as the local community. Friend and neighbor Tab Baer helped Helga find the local talent to get the construction project off the ground. Taking recycled materials to build storage, planters, winter covers, parking, harvesting tables, and washing areas from construction material placed in waste containers Baer had helped GYO Greens use green practices from the ground up.

Starting as seeds planted in crushed coconut husk, seedlings sprout then are placed in the aquaponic environment to grow until harvest. GYO Greens is offering arugula, sage, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, thyme, oregano, Swiss chard, watercress, collard greens, lettuces and spinach. Visitors can see the plants growing and even do some picking of their own.
School field trips and visitors are welcome. If in the Ponte Vedra area, stop by for a tour. For more information about GYO Greens, log onto http://gyogreens.com or call 203-219-5887.