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Natural. Clean. Green.

Local, alternative, Alō Farms produces 'better than organic' crops.

Article by Susan Walworth

Photography by Stephen Wilson; South Atlanta Photography

Originally published in Fayette County Lifestyle

On a quest for dinner ingredients, Brandi Ching Wheeler looked through the self-serve market windows at rows of leafy greens, like the ones she was buying. “I’m excited,” she said. “This is real food.”

Brandi has discovered a little know gem of the Southside and one of Georgia’s best-kept secrets—Alō Farms. With no plowed fields, sea or sun in sight, lush greens and tilapia grow in symbiotic harmony inside a large repurposed building, behind Osmose on Highway 74 in Peachtree City. This unique farm has developed a system that could be the answer to the world’s growing need for local, nutrient-rich food and farming efficiency.

“What we're doing in here is creating a living and natural ecosystem indoors, so we're able to grow 365 days a year,” Alec Brown, general manager, explained. The farm is the brainchild of Alec’s father, Jefferson Brown, who researched and developed an alternative, indoor growing method capable of producing multiple crops per year after seeing starving children while on mission trips. “That really got to me,” Jefferson said.

The method combines aquaculture with growing crops of lettuce, herbs, sprouts and micro-greens, and other vegetables. The produce is sold to local restaurants and residents who want certified, naturally-grown food that is free of pesticides and other chemicals.  Alō products are also available through Market Wagon, an online ordering and delivery service.

Efficient Process

Mediterranean tilapia comes to Alō from hatcheries and is raised in large tanks inside the building.  After solid wastes are removed from the fish tanks, ammonia-rich water, which would be harmful to the fish if allowed to build up, is circulated to the other side of the building where the crops grow. The plants, which contain no known GMOs, rest on rafts, dangling their roots in the water to absorb the nutrients, while also filtering the water. The filtered water is then re-circulated back to the fish tanks in a 24/7 gravity-fed cycle.

Water quality, temperature and humidity are monitored at least three times daily. The system also follows a day/night schedule with the full-spectrum incandescent lights going off at night to give both plants and fish a rest.

With an indoor space of about half of an acre, Alō Farms can produce more than 125 acres of organic farmland for the same types of crops. The seed is planted in stone wool, which has a cotton-candy-like consistency that allows root growth and water circulation. From seed to harvest most Alō plants reach maturity in 35 to 42 days compared to more than 100 days for plants grown in soil.  With less evaporation, the method also requires much less water.  More than 5,000 heads of lettuce and several hundred pounds of microgreens and herbs are harvested each week.

The tilapia, hand-fed premium non-GMO food, reach maturity in about nine months when they are humanely processed.  "With more than 7,000 fish in the building, there’s no fishy smell, which attests to their stress-free environment," Alec said.  He hopes this healthy and sustainable way to produce fish, free of mercury and other chemicals, will become a way to meet the worldwide need to get fresh fish in urban environments. Alō has already sold about 14,000 filets this year.

Food Security and Nutrition

Named for a Greek word that means to feed, nourish, sustain and develop, Alō began as two smaller farms with the primary mission to create community around food security, purity and nutrition.

Alec, who formerly trained professional athletes, helped build the new, larger farm, which had its first harvest in 2021. “This is one of the first indoor ecosystems like this that we know of in the world that's fully indoor,” he said.  “Definitely one of the biggest ones.”  

With a lack of biodiversity and nutrients in foods shipped from great distances, Alec is proud of Alō Farms’ ability to feed an enormous amount of people with nutrient-dense food grown close to home.  “A lot of our customers need natural and clean nutrition that doesn't have herbicides and pesticides,” Alec said.

Alec enjoys eating the tilapia but has a difficult time naming his favorite Alō produce. “You can't go wrong with the butter mix,” he said. “It's just a great mix. I love the Muir (lettuce). It's nice and crispy crunchy—and the power salad with those mixed micro-greens—you feel the difference when you eat it.”

Outreach programs

Alō Farms, which is as much about education and innovation as it is about nutrition, offers tours to schools and other groups. “STEAM is really important to us,” Alec said. With the dwindling number of farmers having an average age of 69, Alec added that it’s important to introduce the next generation to agricultural innovation.

Alō also provides community through nutrition and exercise programs; Nutrition Workshops, Farm Dinners, and Greens on the Green.

For more information visit 

  • Jefferson and Alec hamming it up.