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Flooded aquaponics farm evaluates damage, starts to rebuild

by Graeme Hammer
Published: Last Updated on
Agriculture Farming News & Updates

For Sophia Koopmeiners, greenhouse manager at Montana Roots, June 13 started as just another normal Monday at work.
It had been raining on and off for the past few weeks, but even with water high in the Yellowstone, no one imagined the river would breach Ninth Street Island — home to the farm and a handful of houses in Livingston.

Koopmeiners started her day with the normal routine. She checked the aquaponics system, which allows the farm to grow plants without soil instead of suspending roots in tubs of water. She fed the fish, which supply nutrients to the water-bound plants, and tidied up, all while the river steadily crept onto the island.

By 1 pm that day, the fire department came to evacuate her.
Water flooded their land and greenhouses, getting as high as 4 feet in some places. The river submerged their outdoor vegetable garden entirely, leaving it buried under several inches of silt as the water retreated. The flooding took out the fences surrounding the garden, too, so forcefully it bent some metal posts to a right angle.
Fortunately, Koopmeiners had thought to move the farm delivery vehicle to higher ground before she was evacuated, or that would have been swept away.

Sam Mascari, owner of Montana Roots, which focuses on growing microgreens year round in climate-controlled greenhouses, said the structures on the farm were badly damaged and needed extensive clean-up and repairs. The flooding also destroyed over $1,000 worth of seed, which was a huge loss to the farm, Koopmeiners said. It ruined most of their compostable packaging and labels, broke water pumps and fridges, and damaged some electrical outlets and wires that will need to be replaced. The farm uses raised beds in their greenhouse and aquaponic system, so the fish and most of the crops growing indoors were okay.

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