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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid