Six years ago, New Forest-based David Green was in the Southampton branch of B&Q when he spotted a tiny, bone-dry Washingtonia palm tree that looked to be on its last legs. It was no more than 13 inches tall.
Six years on and David, through the power of water and fish poo alone, and in total defiance of the generally miserable UK weather, has turned the palm tree into a 13' giant, and that's before you add the leaves.
To put it into context, that's two Michael Jordans high. Add in the fact that the Washingtonia palm's preferred climate is northwest Mexico rather than the New Forest, and it's no small achievement.
But then David is an aquaponic farmer, who runs New Forest Aquaponics CIC with his partner Lucie Mann and two sons, Robbie and James.
Few people have heard of it, but aquaponics is a type of farming where you grow plants in water, feeding them solely on fish poo, rather than in a conventional soil environment. Essentially, the fish and plants work together in complete harmony to provide the best environment for both.
Any plant can be grown aquaponically, though it is a method mostly applied to food plants such as salad leaves. The system works by making the fish poo available for the plants to feed on, and with no restrictions from the soil the nutrients are easier for the plants to up take and use. David says:
It is rare to see such a beautiful palm of this size in the UK, and it's currently looking for a new home. If we can sell the palm, it will provide much needed space for our fish and help us fund our journey to becoming a community-owned and run aquaponics farm. We believe this will be the first such farm in the UK."
If anyone is interested in buying the now giant Washingtonia palm, they're being urged to contact Lucie or David at New Forest Aquaponics.
Note: Aquaponics is not to be confused with hydroponics, which is another soil-less growing method, albeit one that adds artificial nutrients to the system to grow the plants. This automatically increases the carbon footprint of the food produced. Hydroponics is a huge industry around the world with much of our supermarket salad produce being grown this way.