Ken Ihlenfeldt, founder of Nova Global Farms Inc., left a career in aviation to launch his own boat building and marina business and has since found a new passion in aquaponics.
"I sold my marine business and retired in 2003," he said. "A friend of mine, who was involved in aquaponics, acquainted me with it, and my interest grew from there. When I retired, I had no intention of going into business again, but I feel so strongly that we need to do something about our food. About 70 percent of the world's agricultural land is degraded, and it's not getting any better."
Nova Global Farms mission is to create an integrated farm system that is completely self-sustaining by incorporating aquaponics and hydroponics in a closed system of food production.
"Aquaponics begins with raising fish in tanks," Ihlenfeldt explained. "We use tilapia because it's becoming a very popular fish, it's very hardy and the temp range for tilapia is much more conducive to the raising of vegetables and produce. The effluent fish water goes through filters to remove solids. Then the nutrient-rich water goes to shallow trays to fertilize the plants. Then the water is recirculated back into the fish tanks. The fish provide nutrients for the plants and the plants clean the water for the fish. You use about 6 percent of the water you use for field produce."
Ihlenfeldt's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to start well capitalized and then keep pushing the business forward.
"You have to be persistent," he said. "Being in business today does not mean 9 to 5. In many instances, it's 24/7. You have to be attentive and make sure you have the stamina and resources to do that. Many businesses fail because they don't have the capital resources to sustain it and too many banks are not helping in that regard."