Make us your home page

Urban Food Forest provides aquaponics in Pasco and beyond

ODESSA — Michele Holzberger long wanted to grow her own food, but until her family found aquaponics, gardening wasn't her strong suit.

"The bugs would get to the tomatoes, and the lettuce didn't seem to thrive," said Michele, 48. "I never was a successful vegetable gardener."

Now, she and her husband own a business based on gardening: the Urban Food Forest, which manufactures, installs and maintains aquaponics systems.

At a seminar the Holzbergers attended five years ago, they first learned about aquaponics, "the combination of hydroponics — which is soilless growing — and aquaculture, which is raising fish," said Michele's husband, Dustin Holzberger, 45. The method uses tanks to raise fish, and water from the tanks circulates and supports beds where plants grow.

"Within days (after the seminar), my husband had plumbing hooked up at the house, and we all jumped in," Michele said. The family's aquaponics system — which holds about 1,500 gallons of water and can grow about 1,000 plants and raise 300 fish at a time — drew attention to their home in Lutz. Visitors wanted systems for their own yards.

So two years ago, the Holzbergers started the Urban Food Forest, to make and sell systems and teach others how to use them.

Aquaponics uses less water than traditional gardening, Dustin said, and requires a gardener to avoid pesticides, which can hurt or kill the fish. Aquaponics also means "no tilling, no watering, no weeding," he said.

"Basically, we took all the work out of gardening," said Colin Holz­berger, 17, who runs the business with his parents. A system does require "feeding the fish once or twice a day, topping off your water once a week, checking your water chemistry and working with the plants and pests as needed."

Leafy greens like romaine, kale and Swiss chard grow especially well, Michele said. She has grown European burpless cucumbers, too, and has started growing pineapples. The fish to use beneath plants depends on a grower's needs, Dustin said.

"If they want to look at them and give them names, we steer them toward koi," he said. "Others will raise tilapia or catfish because they want to eat them."

Aquaponics tanks can also be used to raise red claw crayfish, which the Holzbergers hope to sell to seafood markets, Colin said.

So far, the business has sold about 25 systems — small ones they could ship out of state and systems of all sizes throughout Florida, including to elementary schools.

"The systems are neat because young children can see the roots dangling in the water," Michele said. "We can teach children that they can grow food themselves."

For information about the Urban Food Forest, call (813) 283-7907 or visit online.

Contact Arleen Spenceley at or (727) 869-6235. Follow @ArleenSpenceley.

Urban Food Forest provides aquaponics in Pasco and beyond 07/09/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 7:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  2. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park


    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  3. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers


    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  4. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]
  5. Cooking passion spurs owner to pull open AJ's Kitchen Drawer


    TAMPA — After graduating from the University of Tampa in May 2016, AJ Albrecht spent four months traveling around Southeast Asia and Australia.

    AJs Kitchen Drawer offers a wide variety of unique kitchenware items, such as handcrafted knives and wooden items, as well as local gourmet products. Photo by Danielle Hauser