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"Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush."
– Doug Larson  
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  Volume No. 14 Issue No. 3 March 2017  

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Front Page Photo
Andrew Fisk checks a raft of hydroponic lettuce. Instead of growing through soil, the root systems grow down into the water and nutrients from the fish system. Photos by Jason Gray
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  Local business changing the world ...
  One head of lettuce at a time
  By Jason Gray

  Thousands of commuters on Woodmen Road probably do not realize they are driving past a potentially world-changing research facility. Emerge Aquaponics is taking their experience as part of the local food movement to a global scale, direct from a nondescript greenhouse facility in Colorado, between Black Forest and Falcon.
  
  Aquaponics is the combination of growing fish and food plants in a symbiotic relationship. Fish eat, digest and deposit waste in the water that the plants then soak up as fertilizer and nutrients.
  
  “Everything starts with this fish tank,” said Andrew Fisk, co-director of Emerge Aquaponics. “Fish provide the nutrients, and the plants effectively act as a biofilter cleaning the water. The waste is ammonia that breaks down into nitrogen that the plants suck up. By the time the water gets back to the fish tank, it's pretty clean. The fish get clean water, the plants get the nitrogen-filled water, and the system constantly cycles.”
  
  About 600 tilapia provide enough nutrients to harvest between 1,200 and 1,600 heads of lettuce per week, depending on the season. As the fish grow and mature, they are replaced with fry bred (baby fish) on site, and the mature fish become a protein product (food) from the system. “We're constantly raising them and putting them in the main tank as they get large enough,” Fisk said. “We eventually harvest and eat them ourselves or for events we have.”
  
  Aquaponic systems allow growers to grow food in a small amount of space. The process is ideal for places with frequent droughts, poor soils or harsh climates; in other words, Colorado. “We can grow a thousand heads of lettuce, with only 250 to 400 gallons of water lost, or 90 percent less than anyone else,” said Josh Imhoff, co-director. “A lot of the countries we go to don't have any limitations on pesticides, and so the food and soils can be toxic sometimes and you won't even know it. Growing this way, you know everything is organic, and you haven't added anything to the system.”
  
  The system begins with about 10,000 gallons of water. To comply with Colorado water law, the Emerge team paid to have purchased water trucked to the site. “The water flows through the whole system twice a day,” Fisk said. “The cool part of aquaponics is that you don't have to flush the water as you do in hydroponic systems.”
  
  Hydroponic systems are different because the nutrients must be added directly to the water. Once the water has been cycled through hydroponic systems, it must be drained and disposed of, which can be an issue for wastewater systems or community groundwater resources.
  
  Emerge Aquaponics' greenhouse hums with activity during harvest and transplant day. “As we harvest mature plants from the rafts, we then transplant from the planting trays into the high density floating rafts and rotate the younger plants to the next area,” Fisk said.
  
  Mature heads of butterhead bibb lettuce are packaged into clamshell boxes to be sold at King Soopers' locations throughout the front range. “We've been selling to Till Kitchen and Garden of the Gods Gourmet,” Fisk said. “Several of the chefs have come out and love what we're doing. Restaurants like to use it in their BLTs or lettuce wraps because of its big leaves.”
  
  Emerge tries to focus on selling produce within 50 to 100 miles of their operation to highlight the need for local food production. “The benefit of this is that I could harvest a head of lettuce and tonight at Garden of the Gods Gourmet it could be served,” Fisk said.“Within a few hours, it could be on someone's plate, which is a huge advantage.
  
  “We like to see ourselves as partners with the soil-based local farm movement, other local greenhouses and also other aquaponics. Our hope and dream is to have the community here be able to be sustainable; so if there's a shortage of food, our community can grow food.”
  
  The team's other dream is to bring the experience and knowledge they're building at their Black Forest location to the rest of the world to create sustainable food resources in developing countries. “I grew up traveling around the world, seeing people dying of starvation and being malnourished,” Imhoff said. “I wanted to make a difference. We are looking at how we can create food security for the world.”
  
  Imhoff and Fisk travel frequently throughout the world to help develop, build and maintain similar greenhouse systems in Asia, South America and Africa. However, they balance their global work with supporting their local community. “We're flying to Swaziland in March to help an orphanage because they're in drought,” Imhoff said. “People are dying of starvation there, and we get to help them design and build something that is going to change their community. But we're also doing things locally –- we helped Mountain Springs Church build their system, and they're donating everything through their food pantry, mostly to people in the Falcon area.”
  
  Building a system and knowledge base that can be used in different environments has been a huge challenge. “This has not been easy at all,” Imhoff said. “We've had to fight to get to where we are. There were lots of days where we were ready to give up and throw in the towel and say we're done.”
  
  Aphids, mildew, strange little aquatic insects as well as floods and equipment problems have plagued the team as they learned to fine tune the system. “Most greenhouses go out of business the first two years, and we're going into our third year; and things are starting to work,” Imhoff said. “But I definitely understand why so many people quit before this.”
  
  More than 2,500 people have visited or volunteered at Emerge. The experimental, educational and training aspects of the project have helped many nonprofit and for-profit organizations start their own aquaponic systems worldwide.
  
  “If people wanted to go on an overseas trip with us, they could; or, if they wanted to build one in their local community center or at their house, we'd love to help,” Imhoff said. “Since Colorado is a food desert, we need to figure out how to grow our own food. Now that we have a model that we can reproduce, it's just about the manpower to replicate it around the country and around the world.”
  
  Emerge 3 front page: Hundreds of heads of lettuce float on rafts in Emerge Aquaponics' greenhouse off Woodmen Road.
  
  Emerge 1 - Andrew Fisk checks a raft of hydroponic lettuce. Instead of growing through soil, the root systems grow down into the water and nutrients from the fish system. 
  
  
  Emerge 4 - Lettuce seedlings are transplanted to larger holes in rafts and moved from one pool to the next until they are ready for harvest. 
  
  Traffic fatalities at highest level since 2005
  
  By Lindsey Harrison
  
  According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities in the state have risen 24 percent since 2014, hitting its highest numbers in 11 years. CDOT data shows there were 605 traffic fatalities on all types of roadways in 2016, compared to 547 in 2015.
  
  Trooper Josh Lewis with the Colorado State Patrol said the CSP investigated 291 fatal crashes on Colorado highways and interstates in 2016, the same number as in 2015; however, the overall number of fatalities rose. In 2014, there were 284 fatalities; in 2015, there were 314; and, in 2016, there were 315 fatalities, he said.
  
  “In regard to main causal factors, ultimately there is not anything new or any one factor in particular to account for the increase,” Lewis said. “Those factors include impaired driving, distracted or inattentive driving, speeding or lane violations. Those account for about 64 percent of the fatal crashes that the CSP investigated.”
  
  Lewis said lane violations include weaving, changing lanes unsafely, not making sure the lane is clear when changing lanes and not using the turn signal. “It really just comes down to driving behavior in general,” he said.
  
  CSP is looking at a multi-pronged approach to deal with the increase in fatalities, beginning with training all the troopers, corporals and sergeants in the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program, Lewis said.
  
  According to the CDOT website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with input from the International Association of Chiefs of Police Technical Advisory Panel and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, developed the ARIDE program. “ARIDE was created to address the gap in training between the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program.” ARIDE is a 16-hour training course, taught by drug recognition experts.
  
  The CSP tries to educate the public as well by going out into the community, Lewis said. “We have approximately 400 different safety programs across the state, including safety presentations at schools and fairs, with appropriate information for literally every age level,” he said.
  
  Continuing and extending partnerships with other agencies like CDOT is another way the CSP is working to decrease traffic fatalities, Lewis said. Collaborating with other agencies on high enforcement campaigns, as well as educational programs is part of that effort, he said.
  
  Lewis said the final step to the multi-pronged approach is increased enforcement. “If the education does not work, it means going out there and stopping these issues before they become a fatality,” he said. The CSP tries to inform people that they need to plan ahead to avoid driving under the influence; and that there will be consequences, if they make a poor decision to drive impaired, Lewis said.
  
  Shailen Bhatt, executive director of CDOT, said, “Colorado is growing but that does not mean traffic fatalities must grow, too. A lot can be done to mitigate the increase; for example, if everyone buckled up we could save over 60 lives per year.”
  
  According to the CDOT website, unbelted occupants in vehicles are over-represented in the fatality data, making up half of the passenger vehicle fatalities across all Colorado roadways in 2016. Pedestrian fatalities spiked in 2016, up 24 from the 2011-2015 average of 60.
  
  Almost every fatal crash on Colorado roadways can be related to some sort of risky behavior, the CDOT website states. The odds of surviving a crash increase dramatically if motorists buckle up, watch their speed, stay away from drugs or alcohol while driving and do not use their phones, according to the CDOT website.
  
  “There are several possible reasons for the uptick (in traffic fatalities), such as more people on Colorado’s roadways,” Bhatt said. “The new data is troubling and represents a call to action for all our traffic safety partners in Colorado because the loss of even one life is one too many.”
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  Traffic fatalities at highest level since 2005
  By Lindsey Harrison

  According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities in the state have risen 24 percent since 2014, hitting its highest numbers in 11 years. CDOT data shows there were 605 traffic fatalities on all types of roadways in 2016, compared to 547 in 2015.
  
  Trooper Josh Lewis with the Colorado State Patrol said the CSP investigated 291 fatal crashes on Colorado highways and interstates in 2016, the same number as in 2015; however, the overall number of fatalities rose. In 2014, there were 284 fatalities; in 2015, there were 314; and, in 2016, there were 315 fatalities, he said.
  
  “In regard to main causal factors, ultimately there is not anything new or any one factor in particular to account for the increase,” Lewis said. “Those factors include impaired driving, distracted or inattentive driving, speeding or lane violations. Those account for about 64 percent of the fatal crashes that the CSP investigated.”
  
  Lewis said lane violations include weaving, changing lanes unsafely, not making sure the lane is clear when changing lanes and not using the turn signal. “It really just comes down to driving behavior in general,” he said.
  
  CSP is looking at a multi-pronged approach to deal with the increase in fatalities, beginning with training all the troopers, corporals and sergeants in the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program, Lewis said.
  
  According to the CDOT website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with input from the International Association of Chiefs of Police Technical Advisory Panel and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, developed the ARIDE program. “ARIDE was created to address the gap in training between the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program.” ARIDE is a 16-hour training course, taught by drug recognition experts.
  
  The CSP tries to educate the public as well by going out into the community, Lewis said. “We have approximately 400 different safety programs across the state, including safety presentations at schools and fairs, with appropriate information for literally every age level,” he said.
  
  Continuing and extending partnerships with other agencies like CDOT is another way the CSP is working to decrease traffic fatalities, Lewis said. Collaborating with other agencies on high enforcement campaigns, as well as educational programs is part of that effort, he said.
  
  Lewis said the final step to the multi-pronged approach is increased enforcement. “If the education does not work, it means going out there and stopping these issues before they become a fatality,” he said. The CSP tries to inform people that they need to plan ahead to avoid driving under the influence; and that there will be consequences, if they make a poor decision to drive impaired, Lewis said.
  
  Shailen Bhatt, executive director of CDOT, said, “Colorado is growing but that does not mean traffic fatalities must grow, too. A lot can be done to mitigate the increase; for example, if everyone buckled up we could save over 60 lives per year.”
  
  According to the CDOT website, unbelted occupants in vehicles are over-represented in the fatality data, making up half of the passenger vehicle fatalities across all Colorado roadways in 2016. Pedestrian fatalities spiked in 2016, up 24 from the 2011-2015 average of 60.
  
  Almost every fatal crash on Colorado roadways can be related to some sort of risky behavior, the CDOT website states. The odds of surviving a crash increase dramatically if motorists buckle up, watch their speed, stay away from drugs or alcohol while driving and do not use their phones, according to the CDOT website.
  
  “There are several possible reasons for the uptick (in traffic fatalities), such as more people on Colorado’s roadways,” Bhatt said. “The new data is troubling and represents a call to action for all our traffic safety partners in Colorado because the loss of even one life is one too many.”
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