Ah, fresh air. Warm soil. Sunshine. All the stuff you’d need for a great farm, right?

Well, not necessarily.

A Syracuse, NY entrepreneur has set up an indoor farm in an old warehouse that redefines what we think of as “farming.”

His system is called “aquaponics”—a mash-up of aquaculture (a.k.a. fish farming) and hydroponics (a.k.a. soil-less gardening)—and it’s allowed Mark Doherty and Aqua Vita Farms to produce both lettuce and sustainable fish stocks in an elegant closed loop system that produces 80 percent less waste than traditional farming.

How does he do it?

Solid waste produced by the fish is converted to plant food. Water is fed back into the tanks after it’s been naturally filtered by the plants.The cycle repeats, over and over.

This kind of system allows Doherty to keep his plants healthy without needing to use water-soluble chemicals, which, when dumped down the drain, can encourage algae growth and negatively affect water supplies.

In an article on syracuse.com, Doherty says that this type of indoor farming could be a good way to use abandoned buildings—making use of buildings too expensive to demolish, and reducing travel time from farm to consumer by moving farms closer to urban centres.

Do you get any of your produce from unconventional sources? Share your story in the comments section.

Image credit: Aqua Vita Farms