A truck from Second Harvest food bank Toronto arrives at Green Relief to pick up some fish

Second Harvest and Green Relief: Feeding Fish to People in Need

At Green Relief, we get fired up about social responsibility.

And it just so happens that the way we grow our medical cannabis allows us to give back to our local community in a big (and unique) way. 

As you might know, we grow our cannabis plants in one of the largest commercial aquaponics facilities in Canada. Aquaponics is a combination of fish and plants grown in an environment that mimics a natural ecosystem and produces absolutely zero waste.

But one of the by-products of an aquaponic system is an ongoing supply of fresh, organic fish. Eventually the fish get too big for the tank and need to be replaced with younger fish fingerlings.  

In non-cannabis aquaponic systems, the common business model is to earn an income by selling the vegetables and fish produced during the process. With cannabis being our focus, we started brainstorming ways to put the fish to better use instead of selling them.

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One of the by-products of an aquaponic system is an ongoing supply of fresh, organic fish.
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So we got thinking...

If we have to regularly pull fish from our system, couldn't we donate them to local homeless shelters to use for food?

Just like that, our relationship with Second Harvest Food Rescue was born.

In our aquaponic system we raise tilapia, a mild-flavoured fish that's becoming more difficult to buy from a healthy source. Tiny half-gram tilapia are cycled in our nursery where they spend about two months in the system until they have reached 50g -- 20 times their original weight!

The fish are then transferred to one of the large fish tanks in the grow rooms where they spend another five months or so until they reach a market weight of 700-900 grams. All our fish are fed organic high quality feed resulting in an excellent source of lean, healthy animal protein for consumers.

Our current setup means that we donate anywhere from 300-340 fish every four weeks. With each fish weighing up to a pound and a half, that's almost 500 pounds of fish that we ship out each month!

Aquaponics tilapia ready to be shipped to Second Harvest Toronto

When the time comes, Second Harvest comes to the Green Relief facility with a refrigerated truck that we load with coolers packed full of tilapia. Since we also have a grow room with vegetables in it, we give Second Harvest clear garbage bags full of organic kale, swiss chard and lettuce, too!

Our staff has even gotten to know Ian, a Second Harvest driver, who gets super excited about being able to provide the shelters with such fresh, healthy fish. 

He said that when he leaves our facility in Flamborough, the fish are spread across multiple shelters in southwestern Ontario as far as Toronto. Most fish are cooked up for Fish Friday nights while others are saved for any upcoming special occasions such as Good Friday. 

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Donating fish will be a part of our plan going forward.
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At Green Relief, we're passionate about producing zero waste as much as possible, and Second Harvest shares that same core value. We're absolutely thrilled to be able to provide them with such a health-promoting source of food.

"We feel really good about helping others and the fish donating will be a part of our plan going forward," says Green Relief CEO Warren Bravo.

A 3.5–ounce serving of tilapia has 26 grams of complete protein and is a good source of essential fatty acids, magnesium, and B vitamins. Tilapia is also an excellent source of Vitamin D, which is found in very few foods.

Green Relief would like to thank Second Harvest for getting our precious supply of healthy fish into the hands of those in need.


About Second Harvest

Delivering over eight million pounds of fresh food each year to people in need around Toronto, Second Harvest is the largest food rescue program in Canada.

For over 30 years, they've picked up surplus and donated food and delivered it to a network of over 220 social service agencies that welcome it with open arms.

For more information, visit their website at: www.secondharvest.ca

A second harvest worker cleans the organic fish that Green Relief donated

 

 

 

  • November 17, 2016
  • Press