Startup Grant Contest update: The Radix Center

Scott Kellogg from the Radix Center, AOA's first startup grant winner, with the aquaculture system at the center in Albany.

There are just two weeks left to enter a business idea in the All Over Albany Startup Grant Contest, sponsored by Staff Ciampino & Company P.C., Certified Public Accountants. One winner will receive $1,500 from Berkshire Bank to help start up a new business, or take an existing business to the next level. You should apply. Don't wait!

The first AOA Startup Grant winner was The Radix Center for Ecological Sustainability in Albany. When they applied for the grant, Scott Kellogg and Stacie Pettigrew had already had a 40-foot greenhouse and were working on raising chickens, rabbits, and vegetables on a plot of land in Albany's Grand Street neighborhood. But the founders of the educational center for urban sustainability pitched an addition to their project -- an aquaculture setup in which they could raise fish, watercress, and water lettuce.

Today Kellogg says they're using the system as a teaching tool and selling some of the resulting products.

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We checked in with you about a year ago. What's new since then?

Well, lots. We've had a great winter. We started a CSE, a Community Supported Education Center. It's a little like a CSA in that we have subscribers. Subscribers can buy in and get a share of whatever we harvest and we deliver it to them each week when we do our compost pick-up.

What are you producing over the winter?

All winter we have been growing micro greens, watercress, pea shoots, oyster mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, chard, kale, nasturtiums, eggs, and sprouts. People can pay on a sliding scale so you can pay different amounts to get different quantities. There are about 30 people in the CSE now. It will cap at some point because we can only grow so much, but it's great because having the greenhouse allows us to grow throughout the year. A lot of the upstairs plants are blooming now. Figs and citrus are doing really well up there. One of the problems with growing year round up there is it gets pretty hot. In March it's been 93 degrees in the greenhouse.

You used the grant money from the AOA contest to build the aquaculture. How is that going?

Great. The watercress we have been harvesting is a staple of our CSE deliveries. We harvest about 2 pounds a week which has been great. Watercress can go for $20 a pound in markets.

We're also raising koi, catfish, carp bullhead, perch, blue gill, and goldfish. The primary purpose of the fish right now is to provide nutrients for the plants. There's a lot more value in the plants being grown. But now we are moving toward ornamental fish. We can get more money selling that as a pond fish than as a food fish.

Thumbnail image for Radix 2012 aquaculture 1st floor.jpg

Thumbnail image for Radix 2012 fish in aquaculture 1.jpg

You walked away with $1,500 from the contest. What else did you take from the experience?

I think just it helped us be clear with our own vision and our business proposal. It was great to meet the judges and it was helpful to watch the videos that were recorded of the judges discussing our proposals because a lot of stuff comes out in the room that they might be hesitant to say to our face. That's some of the best advice because they were a lot more brutally honest. But it gave us a lot of momentum. We realized we actually had something.

What's next for you Radix?

We've got tons of stuff coming up. We are rely excited to be partnering with Grand Street Community Arts and Youth Organics. We've been doing elementary and middle school programs. We've brought a bunch of students from Albany High in.

This spring in a few weeks we have funding to tear out the asphalt and build garden beds where there used to be just pavement. We have a 4H program for high school students about mapping the local watershed, discovering old streams and creeks that flowed through Albany and are now buried underground. It's going to be a great spring and summer. And we have our open houses last Sunday of every month at 1 pm for people who want to get a tour and see what we're doing.

Comments

That watershed mapping project sounds like fun. Long live the Beaver Creek!

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