- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

BLISS, Idaho (AP) - The new owner of a private hot springs in south-central Idaho plans to use the 160-degree water to heat greenhouses as part of an aquaponics system to grow lettuce.

White Arrow Ranch owner Ron Miller tells The Times-News (https://bit.ly/1bKc0fO) that he hopes to produce 43,000 heads of lettuce a month by Jan. 1 and employ eight to 14 people per acre.

“It’s the most unique property I have ever encountered,” Miller said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m getting visions of what I’m going to make it into.”

Miller obtained the ranch in September after the winner of an auction in May bowed out.

The central feature is a shallow geyser that produces 1.3 million gallons of 160-degree water a day. Miller said using that water to heat greenhouses will save thousands of dollars. Inside the greenhouses, he plans to grow red and green butter lettuce, which will be fertilized by fish waste.

The plants will get nutrients through the aquaponics system. In aquaponics, fish waste is pumped from a tank into grow beds, where bacteria convert it into the nitrates plants need. Miller says he plans to use tilapia and largemouth bass.

“I can’t imagine anyone could produce quite a pure product as we can with the water,” Miller said. “There’s no sulfur smell. This is going to be very profitable. This will throw off an incredible amount of power. It’s the only property I’ve seen that has all three of the sustainable energy factors: geothermal, solar and wind.”

The geothermal activity at the ranch is likely caused by the same system that powers the geothermal activity at Yellowstone National Park, Miller said.

“It is a Yellowstone tailing,” he said. “There’s probably molten lava fairly close to the surface on this property that is producing the hot water springs. Steam coming off of lava is the purest form of geothermal (heat.) . It comes from thousands of feet down, and that’s what purifies it. It’s coming up through all the lava rock.”

Previous ranch owners who failed to make it profitable built up too much debt, Miller said. His background in running resort companies in Wyoming, from which he has retired, makes the project for him “an assignment” instead of a career, he said.

“This is such a pristine property, I think the Lord gave me this property,” Miller said. “He just couldn’t stand it anymore. It just needed to get cleaned up. . I don’t really need money, but everything I create keeps blessing me, and I make more. I’m an industrious person, and we use it for charity.”

Miller said he plans to hire 80 locals the first year of operation and sell the lettuce commercially, than expand with tomatoes and cucumbers.


Information from: The Times-News, https://www.magicvalley.com

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