January 15, 2014

Aquaponic Farming Coming To Sag

By Emily Toy

A local eatery will make history by constructing a first ever two-kitchen concept right here on the East End.

Page at 63 Main, a restaurant located in Sag Harbor Village that prides itself on serving farm to table cuisine, is in the process of constructing an aquaponic farming system to provide the business with its own produce.

According to the restaurant's Media Relations Representative Debra Huneken, architects are still working on the physical construction of the system, which was announced in October, but more should be finalized in the next couple weeks and ground is set to be broken very soon.

According to a phone conversation with Huneken on Monday, Page will be closing on January 20, with her alluding to some crucial internal elements specific to the aquaponic project being installed during that time.

Huneken said after the reopening, the restaurant owners, architects and project consultants alike will have a better idea of what they need to do for the aquaponics system, enthusing, "I think the place is going to blow up this summer."

The aquaponics food system combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks), with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. Nitrates and nitrites created by fish by-products serve as nutrients for the growing plants.

A garden of lettuces, herbs, tomatoes and more is slated to reside several stories above the newly furbished restaurant, which made its debut last year.

"Page will be unlike any other dining establishment in the region," said co-owner Joseph Traina. "In a decade where people are 'going green' and 'eating organic,' Page is setting a new standard with ideas like a separate kitchen where only foods free from pesticides, antibiotics and steroids may be prepared, and a sustainable food system," he added, noting the locale's commitment to offering "food with purpose."

The proposal includes plans to construct a second floor over the existing first story portion of the building to serve as a green house. The third story of the building will serve as a rooftop garden.

The footprint of the building will not change, remaining at 3860 square feet. Eight hundred thirty five square feet of space will be designated for a seeding area with the green house being 481 square feet. The number of seats in the restaurant will not change, nor the exiting apartment located above. Therefore, the project does not need additional parking or wastewater treatment.

According to Dennis Downes, representing co-owner Gerard Wawryk at a Sag Harbor Planning Board work session November 26, the Southampton Town Sustainability Committee is in favor of the project going forward. However, because the project will increase the building size to over 4000 square feet, it will have to be reviewed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Thusly, the village planning board will have to determine whether or not the project carries the potential to cause a significant adverse environmental impact.

Downes noted hopes for other restaurants to be able to look at sustainable food systems like aquaponics to cultivate produce.

"One of the things that excites me the most about the Sag Harbor project is the educational potential of the design," Wawryk said in a press release. "Once complete the onsite 'Micro Rooftop Farm,' will offer tours and opportunities for students and families to experience this model and learn about growing food in a truly sustainable way."

In addressing the planning board, Koru Collaborative consultant Terry Chapel stated the proposal is designed in a very sustainable way because there is no need to import salt-based chemicals from Morocco, which is normally the case, adding it's "very easy, low labor, simple and clean."

"Not only do the gardens produce vegetables and herbs that simply taste good, but we are hoping to give something back to this community in providing families with the experience of seeing how the food on their plates was grown," Traina said.


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