Recycling Fish Water to Fertilize Plants and Grow Food: Oko Farms

by Deirdre Appel
Oko Farms

Name: Oko Farms

What They Do: Oko Farms is New York City’s largest outdoor aquaponics farm and education center. They utilize a hybrid of aquaculture and hydroponics known as aquaponics to raise freshwater fish along with a variety of vegetables and fruits. Waste water from their fish tank is pumped through several plants to grow beds and provide nutrient rich fertilizer for the plants. In return, the plants filter all of the toxic waste from the water so that clean water is returned to the fish. This constant recycling of nutrients via fish waste creates an extremely efficient system that allows Oko Farms to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers while avoiding the toxic environmental run-off that characterizes current aquaculture practices.

The 2,500 square-foot aquaponics system houses a variety of freshwater fish, including catfish, tilapia, crawfish, freshwater prawns, goldfish, koi, and bluegill. The plants cultivated include rice, lemongrass, mint, okra, peppers, spinach, beans, garlic, chamomile, tomatoes, eggplant, and more.

The farm is open to the public from 10AM to 2PM, Monday to Saturday, from May to November. 

How They Do It: In addition to aquaponic farming, Oko Farms runs workshops for schools and designs aquaponics systems for a variety of clients. They provide partners with expertise, data, and general guidance to help design, build and maintain an indoor, outdoor, or rooftop aquaponics farm. In addition to their expertise in designing, installing and maintaining aquaponics systems, they also provide technical training in aquaponics farming, best practices, systems support, program design, and help with integration into newly constructed sights. Currently they partner with NEBHDCo, the NYC Mission Society, Brotherhood/Sister Sol and Dabar Developments. 

Their aquaponics gardening provides a great tool for teaching science, botany, and environmental sustainability to students of all ages. The school-based program is in partnership with Leave-it-Better, an organization that provides a unique educational experience that combines technology, environmental science, and visual storytelling. The program includes documentary film training; the science behind the aquaponics ecosystem (the relationship between living and nonliving components); aquaponics engineering; and an installation of a mini aquaponics garden. At the end of the school year, students screen their documentaries at the New York Botanical Garden.

Mission: Utilizing aquaponics to raise freshwater fish along with a variety of vegetables and fruits to help create a more sustainable food system in New York City

Latest project/campaign: Oko Farm offers NYC’s only aquaponics training program. The seven-month immersion program offers adults the opportunity to explore sustainable food cultivation through an urban farming experience. Participants are provided with the basic skills in aquaponics design, construction and implementation, all grounded in environmental sustainability, food security and community development. 

Major Funding: Investments from the founder, revenue from workshops and design consultations 

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: According to an article in Vogue, the aquaponics system at Oko Farms has been using the same primary body of water since 2013. Given that about 70 percent of freshwater is used for agriculture globally, this kind of recycling is a notable achievement. The technique – using fish waste to fertilize plants grown in water and then allowing the plants to filter toxins from the water so it can be safely returned to the plants – has potential to help conserve water in the farming industry. 


Location: 104 Moore St, Brooklyn, NY 11206

Core Programs: Consultations, designs, and builds; workshops; school trainings; farming

Number of staff:  3

Number of volunteers: N/A

Areas served: New York City

Year Started: 2012

Founder: Yemi Amu

Contact Information:


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