News / Science & Technology

Combined Fish-Vegetable Farming Catching On

'Aquaponics' Farms Fish and Vegetables Togetheri
X
November 18, 2013 11:24 PM
A new way of farming is on the rise. 'Aquaponics' raises fish and vegetables together in a symbiotic system. Sustainability advocates have embraced the technique as a compact way to efficiently produce high quality, nutritious food. But as VOA’s Steve Baragona reports, it remains to be seen whether aquaponics is sustainable financially as well as environmentally.
The fish don’t like strangers.

Ellen Perlman pours a scoop of fish food into one of four blue plastic tanks at Chesapeake Aquaponics, about half an hour from Baltimore. Picture a giant kiddie pool that's deep enough to stand in up to your belly.

“You would think we have piranhas here,” she said, expecting a torrent of tilapia to froth the water’s surface but it remains stubbornly smooth. She chuckled. "Maybe not.” 

She says the fish recognize her voice and her footsteps, but not a visiting reporter’s.

“Fish are very sensitive animals,” she added.

Environmental sweet spot

But it’s an indelicate aspect of these delicate creatures that makes her garden grow. From these tanks, water rich in what you might call “fish manure” flows through a filter system and into the adjacent plant beds, where lettuce and other vegetable plants float in Styrofoam rafts.

“It’s a way of recycling the fish nutrients,” she says.

It’s called aquaponics. It combines aquaculture - or fish farming - with hydroponics - growing plants without soil.

Aquaponics hits a sweet spot for environmentalists. It recycles fish waste into plant food. Hydroponics typically uses less water than conventional farming. And for those concerned about insecticides on their produce, the fact that the fish share the water with the plants means aquaponic farmers have to be very careful about what they spray.

“Any type of spray would harm the fish,” Perlman said. Even insecticidal soaps popular with organic growers are off limits.

Another part of aquaponics’ appeal is the fact that overfishing is depleting the world’s oceans.  Fish farming accounts for at least half the world’s production, but waste from all those confined fish is polluting some areas.

“There are fewer and fewer fish in the ocean and more and more fish will be raised on farms,” said Dave Love, a microbiologist with the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future (CLF). “The trick is, how do we do that responsibly, sustainably and in ways that make fish farmers money?”

Small but productive

Tackling those questions is what CLF’s Cylburn Aquaponics Farm aims to do.

Located next to greenhouses at Baltimore’s Cylburn Arboretum, the farm has been up and running for a little over a year.

Farm manager Laura Genello says she’s delivering about 10 to 20 pounds (five to 10 kilograms) of produce per week to local farmers markets from about 300 square feet (28 square meters) of growing space.

“Which is relatively small,” she said, “but 10 pounds of greens is a fair amount of greens.”

The farm harvested its first 20 one-kilo fish earlier this fall, and they expect to produce about 275 fish per year.

Profitable?

But whether aquaponics is profitable is an open question. Energy costs are a big factor.

“Our tilapia like 70 degrees (21C). In the winter, it gets quite a bit cooler," Love said. "So, we need to heat the space.”

Cylburn Aquaponics Farm is grant-funded, but Chesapeake Aquaponics is a commercial venture. It has not turned a profit yet, but Perlman is optimistic that providing high-quality fresh greens in the middle of winter will win her a niche market.

The elegance of aquaponics’ symbiosis is alluring, and aquaponic businesses and nonprofit projects are popping up around the country and around the world.

But Genello is cautious.

“I think we have to be careful about not getting ahead of ourselves with the excitement about the system because there are a lot of things that are not quite perfect about it,” Genello said. “That’s why it’s really important for more people to actually do aquaponics, so we get more people experimenting and playing around with what works and what doesn’t.”

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Osmundo Gemora Libo-on from: Binalbagan, Negros Occ.
December 04, 2013 4:19 PM
I have been looking for alternative farming and maybe this is good and applicable here.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid