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    Brent Floating Farms aims to “revolutionize agriculture”
    brent-floating-farms-aims-to-“revolutionize-agriculture”

    May 1, 2024

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    Brent Floating Farms, a local agricultural initiative started by a husband-and-wife duo, is the beginning of a dream to discover more sustainable methods of farming

    Delta Digital News Service

    Monday, May 13, 2024

    By Avery Jones | Editor

    PARAGOULD, Ar. — Brent Floating Farms, a company headquartered in Paragould, is experimenting with sustainable agricultural methods. Headed by husband-and-wife duo Frank and Cinda Brent, the goal is to grow food in a way that is environmentally conscious and organic while at the same time profitable and accessible.

    According to Frank Brent, their method is aquaponics, which he describes as “hydroponics and aquaculture mixed together.” 

    Frank (right) and Cinda (left) Brent.

    Essentially, they grow plants in repurposed shipping containers, and the plants are grown in water without soil which is fertilized by fish. The water is cleaned by the plants. This results in a “closed-loop” system.

    The Brents have been studying this method for at least 25 years. When they first started, they were living in Marianna, Arkansas, and were “avid gardeners.” They decided to move their garden inside a greenhouse to do aquaponics because they didn’t want to use pesticides anymore. 

    They also researched and worked for 7 years at University of Arkansas Pine Bluff on aquaponic methods, where their systems are still in use. They did many tests, including on what to feed the fish and how this affects plant growth.

    Frank Brent has been a farmer since 1979, so he has much experience with traditional farming methods. He says that he “gave up” on row crop farming because he didn’t think it was very profitable due to the equipment costs. Less conventional methods of growing food offered a new perspective.

    “I really enjoyed the symbiotic relationship…and circular agriculture,” Frank Brent said.

    Chemical drift, also known as pesticide drift, became a problem for them. Pesticide drift happens when pesticides negatively or unintentionally affect humans, environment, and crops.

    They decided to expand their operation by moving to Paragould and buying a 100-acre farm. However, they knew that pests would always be an issue and wanted a way to circumvent that. 

    The Brents don’t believe in using chemicals for growing plants. They want their crops to be organic. However, it can be difficult to grow this way and remain profitable.

    According to Frank Brent, commercial farms produce about 40% waste but organic farms produce 70% waste. This is why organic produce can be so expensive. 

    “So I decided that, what would be better than taking it inside a container and taking it to sea?” Frank Brent said.

    This was how the idea of Brent Floating Farms was born. Growing plants inside a container using only water and fish works well to prevent pests, and the temperature-controlled containers have the added bonus of allowing the growth of off-season crops.

    However, there can still be issues with unintentionally letting insects inside the container when the door is opened. Furthermore, air still needs to be provided for the plants, and pests come with that as well. Their first year at Paragould, their plants were completely wiped out due to these issues. 

    1 week old test crop with the Brents’ new design.

    “Everything was perfect, it was beautiful, it was huge. We grew so much more per square foot than…any other method of farming,” Frank Brent said. “It was a pretty sore and sad moment to watch our produce all go down the tubes.”

    “Everything was perfect, it was beautiful, it was huge. We grew so much more per square foot than…any other method of farming…It was a pretty sore and sad moment to watch our produce all go down the tubes.”

    — Frank Brent

    Brent had another idea for their farm which would avoid the problem of pests altogether. He used to work in the Navy and noticed that there were no pests at sea. By putting the aquaponic farms in the shipping containers on ships at sea, they would have no more problems with pests.

    Of course, neither aquaponics nor “floating farms” are a new concept. Both of these methods can be traced back to the Aztecs who practiced an early form of this type of agriculture, called “chinampas.” Currently, this method has been revived in Mexico City, and the world’s first large-scale floating farm was conceived in the Netherlands.

    The Brents, however, hope to eventually take their operation to a larger scale. They used to be set up in Louisiana, but when they were finally starting to gain traction, the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida took them out.

    They’re still working on rebuilding. They recently purchased another farm called Chicken Town Egg Farm, which was in trouble financially, and are in the process of doubling that operation. 

    When they’re able to get Brent Floating Farms back on track, their goal is to manufacture 350 containers for their crops on land in Louisiana and eventually put some containers at sea as well. 

    On land, their hope is that waste will be at 15% while at sea, expected waste will be between 3% to 5%. Aquaponics also uses 90% less water than traditional soil and irrigation methods. The Brents recognize that energy usage can be an environmental issue, but they have looked into alternative energy methods.

    Furthermore, their method doesn’t have to just use water and fish. With the use of black soldier fly larva, they can use any type of organic waste, and the insects will break that down. Insects that are beneficial to plants rather than pests can also be introduced inside the container.

    Leigh Ann Weidner, CEO of Brent Floating Farms.

    Because the crops won’t be subject to the environment, they will be able to produce a higher yield as well. According to Frank Brent, they can produce 12,000 heads of lettuce in 30 days in an average container.

    The team behind Brent Floating Farms includes co-founders Frank and Cinda Brent as well as Leigh Ann Weidner, their CEO. Frank is the COO, and his focus is the technical, agricultural aspects while Cinda is the CAO and focuses on marketing. Weidner, who is working remotely from Wisconsin due to another job, specializes in sales.

    -30-




    Avery Jones is a junior in The Department of English and Philosophy at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas. She can be reached at [email protected]




    Note: Featured image provided by Shutterstock.

    Read more here:
    Brent Floating Farms aims to “revolutionize agriculture”. Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

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