A fish farmer dives back into the pond

By Heather Michon, correspondent

Once upon a time, Tom Simonin had 15 ponds scattered across 23 acres of land. He was busy installing ponds and water features for customers all around the region. His farm, Simonin’s Aquatic Treasures, was poised to become a destination for families looking for a fun local outing.

Then it was 2008, and the bottom fell out of the economy. Aquatic Treasures folded.

Ten years later, relocated to a smaller piece of property near Kent’s Store, Simonin is energized to get back in the pond building business, with a renewed focus on promoting self-sufficiency through aquaponics.

“Because we lost everything, my biggest thing is living within my means,” he said.

Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture (the raising of fish) with hydroponics (the soilless growing of plants) in an integrated system. The plants filter the water for the fish; the fish waste provides an organic fertilizer for the plants.

And because water is pumped through the system “you never have to remember to water your plants,” he chuckled.

Plants grown in aquaponic systems tend to be healthy, organic, and mostly pest-free. Plus, you can grow edible fish as an additional source of food.
Simonin farms tilapia, which helps irrigate a 1100-square foot garden in his basement. Tilapia are fairly easy fish to raise, with one breeding colony resulting in up to 35,000 eggs. Becoming a licensed tilapia farmer costs about $12.

He also hopes to bring some of his produce to market later this year. A clean room stands ready to process his goods for the local farm stand circuit.
In his basement oasis, he can experiment. There are a lot of grow lights on the market, he says, from the very cheap to the very expensive, and “now I know which ones work best.”

Simonin is clearly an experimental guy. His YouTube channel, Crazy Fish Farmer, has more than 200 videos he’s shot over the last nine years, chronicling his various projects.

An ideal system for an average-sized property would combine a small greenhouse connected to a pond with a pumping system to connect them together. With some tweaks, the system could provide fresh food year-round. It could even be off-the-grid, with the use of a solar-powered pumping and heating system.

Today, Simonin sees his role as a consultant.

“That’s my biggest goal this time around–to help people. I can do it for them, sure, but I would rather help them build it themselves. That way they know exactly what they have and what they built, and then it won’t cost them as much money. And they have a lot of enjoyment because they built it.”

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