David Gann is a man of many interests, talents, and accomplishments. The 64-year-old Montrose resident has been a scientist, a fish farmer, an elk rancher, a singer-guitarist, and a Montrose County Commissioner.
In fact, there was a time when Gann was known as the Singing Commissioner of Montrose County (he served from1994-1998). He laughed when the Montrose Monitor brought that up. “Yeah, well, that was a lot of fun. I still play my guitar occasionally, but I’m not out there doing the musicals like I used to. Now, I just kind of hum to myself,” he said with a grin.
David and Linda Gann moved to Montrose in 1978. “I had just graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in fisheries biology,” David explained. “I went to work for Bob Corey at the Silver Springs Trout Farm to help manage that. A few years later, we purchased that farm when Bob retired. We were there for 16 years.”
While Linda had a career as the spokesperson for the Montrose School District, David worked as a conservation biologist and program manager for the Nature Conservancy for more than a dozen years.
Linda Gann is now the Western Slope director of Connect For Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance exchange.
David Gann is the chief science officer at South River Aquaponics, of Montrose. “I’m probably pushing about three years out here. The facility is a little over four years old.” It’s a very large, high-tech greenhouse, containing thousands of vegetables and an indoor fish farm, on 6650 Road. He is responsible for keeping the fish and plants healthy, and is developing a new strain of mushrooms. Along with mushrooms, the farm is also growing lettuce.? “So what is aquaponics? It is the blending of aquaculture, or fish farming, with hydroponics, or soil-less agriculture,” Gann explained.
They use just one type of fresh water fish. “In the greenhouse, we are raising tilapia. They produce waste, of course, and that waste is then biologically treated. The waste feeds the plants; the plants, in turn, clean the water and return it back to the fish. So, it’s an entirely enclosed recirculation system; the only fresh water we have to add is to overcome the loss from evaporation.”
They don’t sell the tilapia. “When we get too many of them, we just have a giant employee barbecue,” he laughed.
Gann pointed out that the process is remarkably efficient. “In a 14,000 sq. ft. greenhouse we are able to produce about an acre’s worth of produce, using only about 500 gallons of water a day. And, it’s all recirculated.” All of their produce has been certified organic by the state.
Along with mushrooms, the farm is also growing lettuce. Gann said that many, but not all, crops can be grown aquaponically. “You can grow a lot of the vegetables—tomatoes, onions, herbs, chives, basil, all the different lettuces. You can grow melons. Anything that will thrive by just dropping its roots into nutrient-rich water should do well in an aquaponic greenhouse.”
You can buy their mushrooms locally at Natural Grocers. Many restaurants in Telluride, Grand Junction, Aspen, and Crested Butte are using their greens.
South River Aquaponics has been recognized for its clean technology by the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association, according to Gann. “We’ve received a $250,000 grant in recognition for our water-savings technology. To be in a high desert in the middle of a drought, and grow crops with just a little bit of water, is one of the things that the grant-maker really favored.”
Speaking of the drought, Gann said,” I think it’s a big worry, really. My last position with the Nature Conservancy was as the Rivers Director for the Arizona chapter.” That job made him intimately familiar with the Colorado River Compact, which governs water distribution around the Southwest. “The more you dig into that, the more you realize that we simply don’t have the water to go around, like we used to. And, it doesn’t appear to be getting any better.” Gann said that even our ground water supplies are starting to dry up. “We’d have to have year after year after year of record moisture—snow and rain—to get back to a normal level.”
Family is very important to the Ganns. David and Linda are happy that their daughter Jamie and her two boys live in Montrose, and that their son John David has also moved back to town.
David Gann is an outdoorsman who is grateful to be living here. “I love to go bow-hunting and camping, so I find lots of things to do on my own time.
“Montrose has been a great place for us to live. We raised our family here, and we love the area. I just find myself feeling fortunate to be here still, and to be working in a field that is cutting edge, interesting, and contributes to the future.”