Urban farming company Kappa Farms will invest $865,000 and hire 21 people to open an aquaponics operation in Sterling.
According to the office of Governor Terry McAuliffe, the company will build a closed-loop nutrient cycle aquaponics facility which will produce certified organic baby lettuces and arugula using water and nutrients derived from fish waste. The company will produce more than $7 million worth Virginia-grown lettuces over the next three years, which it will then sell to customers and restaurants in the Washington, DC, metro area.
“It is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in agricultural technology,” stated Schuyler Milton, who co-founded Kappa Farms with Keith Born. “Environmental challenges, changes in economics, and advances in materials and technology have all come to a point at which supplying locally grown and organic produce is both more vital and more feasible than ever before. We’re very privileged to have been born and raised in Virginia, and we’re very happy to be able to help bring this new industry to Virginia, in no small part thanks to Governor McAuliffe and Loudoun County.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Loudoun County and Chrysalis Vineyards to land the business. McAuliffe approved a $40,000 grant from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which the Loudoun government will match.
“The success of Virginia’s agriculture industry is a testament to the diversity and quality of our products, as well as our outstanding reputation in the global economy,” McAuliffe stated. “… We will continue to support projects and products that diversify our agriculture industry, build the new Virginia economy and contribute to the Commonwealth’s reputation as the best place to do business around the world.”
Virginia is the nation’s third largest seafood producer and the largest on America’s Atlantic coast, according to the governor’s office. Virginia is ranked 10th nationally in aquaculture production. Virginia’s watermen harvest 50 commercially valuable species from 620,000 acres of water, including sea scallops, blue crabs, striped bass, summer flounder, croaker, spot, clams and oysters. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science reported the annual economic impact of Virginia’s seafood industry to be over half a billion dollars.
“Aquaculture production represents an opportunity for Virginia to capitalize on the need to feed a growing population with limited resources,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden. “We are lucky to have an innovative company like Kappa Farms as a member of the agriculture community in Virginia.”
“We’re proud to welcome Kappa’s expansion into Loudoun County,” said Loudoun Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer. “Theirs is the type of unique, science-based innovation that sets Loudoun businesses apart.”
“I applaud Kappa Farms for their investment and expansion in Sterling,” said Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33). “Loudoun’s agricultural community will be elevated by Kappa’s innovative agricultural technology and I look forward to seeing their products in the homes and restaurants in the 33rd District and beyond.”