Eastern to launch agri-business incubator with construction of second greenhouse, partnership with Symbiotic Aquaponic


Joint venture to be featured on Aug. 6 episode of “Oklahoma Gardening”

WILBURTON, OK (Aug. 2, 2016) – The success of Eastern’s first venture into aquaponics has resulted in the construction of a second greenhouse and the upcoming launch of a new Agri-Business Incubator facility in Wilburton.

Partnering with Symbiotic Aquaponic, Eastern began offering the first aquaponics certificates classes in Oklahoma following the completion of the college’s 2,880-square-foot greenhouse in 2014. As the popularity and demand for the courses continued to grow, Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith and Dr. Kaben Smallwood, co-owner of Symbiotic Aquaponic, began researching the possibility of creating an agri-business incubator to provide training to producers interested in a career centered on aquaponics.

Their joint efforts resulted in a $199,000 Rural Business Development Grant award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and construction of a new greenhouse and commercial-scale aquaponics operation that can be replicated throughout rural Oklahoma.

“This is the first aquaponics incubator in the state of Oklahoma,” Smallwood said. “It’s an exciting program that will have the capability of creating 20 new business entities over the life of the grant. Through aquaponics entrepreneurships, our goal is to create jobs, build the community and conserve precious natural resources. The incubator will help provide stability in a fledgling industry.”

Smallwood said Symbiotic Aquaponic staff and Eastern’s agriculture faculty will work together to recruit and select participants for the program. Participants will utilize in-class instruction and hands-on work in the greenhouse during a 90-day course period to leave the incubator with the aquaponics and business knowledge needed to start their own aquaponic business.

The program includes 20 hours of instructional materials including introductions to aquaponics and business, an overview of the rules and regulations associated with aquaponics, financial viability of proposed operations, business formation assistance, and discussion of potential financing options through government programs and financial institutions.

In addition, participants will have 20 hours of required greenhouse time focused on learning aquaponic techniques and methods, including taking a crop from seed to harvest, marketing the crop, and incorporating the resulting information into a business plan. Each participant will be allowed 100 square feet of aquaponics grow space in Eastern’s state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Smallwood said the first class of the incubator program will begin in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, individuals interested in learning more about aquaponics can attend the next certification course offered by Symbiotic Aquaponic on Aug. 27 at Eastern. Visit www.symbioticaquaponic.com to register.

The joint venture is scheduled to be highlighted in the Aug. 6 episode of “Oklahoma Gardening” at 11 a.m. on OETA. “Oklahoma Gardening” is produced by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service through the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and Agricultural Communications Services.

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