University of Montana Vertical Aquaponics Takes One Small Step For Future Ag

Posted by Amy Storey on February 23, 2015

University of Montana Vertical Aquaponics

The University of Montana is sporting a brand new vertical aquaponic system, and it's making a real splash.


galactic farms logoCrops were planted at the start of the new year, and the system manager, Natasha Hegmann, is looking forward to seeing the first harvest.

The whole system started with the restless dreams of Jeff Pernell and his company, Galactic Farms.

Jeff has been involved in vertical gardening since he started a small garden in his apartment. The potential of that small system blossomed and grew into a larger passion, eventually leading to Galactic Farms.

Jeff became involved with the UM Dining Services and created a small system for micro-greens from thrifted materials. While production from the system was good, Jeff and Dining Services were not satisfied with the confinement of the location and with the overall set-up, so they decided to make it better. After a few months of consulting and research, the Dining Services asked Jeff to make a proposal for a mobile, year-round system.

The Space 200 was born.

Space 200 2

The system is set on a rack capable of handling 5000 pounds, seismic conditions, and plenty of interaction with humans. The system is called the Space 200, a sustainable probiotic aquaponic cultivation system. As you might have guessed from the space-themed names, the system was created with other ecosystems in mind.

Jeff would like to see the system used for research and study in the future.

The Space 200 as already proved itself as an asset for the University.

Starting with the first harvest in March, the Space 200 will be providing fresh produce, including basil, swiss chard, bok choy, kale, and various lettuce varieties, to the school's dining services.


SPACE 200 Check out more pictures of the Space 200 at the Galactic Farms Facebook page. (Click the photo)

While the Space 200's unique design was expected to foster discussion, the potential that the system has shown for building community and making connections has rocketed beyond expectations.

Natasha Hegmann manages day-to-day operations of the system and has been encouraged by the attention that the system has received. The Space 200, she says, has been exciting students and triggering thought about future agriculture.

“I’m excited about the interest it’s producing on campus. There are always students asking me questions … it’s been a constant conversation,” says Natasha. "Jeff's whimsical futuristic thinking excites people."

The system fits in with one of the school’s goals to grow more food on campus, as well as a focus on food safety. The system incorporates three filters, including a UV filter and biological filtering through the media inside the ZipGrow towers. Jeff is looking towards creating systems and growing for restaurants and local grocery stores with his business, Galactic Farms.

In the future, UM will have a student intern looking after the system, and will use it as a hands-on learning opportunity to teach about aquaponics and vertical growing.

Montana_Grizzlies_logoThe Bobcats have got some catching up to do.

Read more about the project from Montana Kaimin.

And, read what the University has to say here.

If you want to join the University of Montana as a vertical grower, check out

Topics: Upstart Farmers

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