Monday, April 30, 2012

Aquaponics: The Future of Sustainable Fish Farming?


We all know about organic fruit and vegetables and free-range organic chicken; but how much do you know about organic fishing? The term coined for this type of fishing is aquaponics and it is growing followers around the world. Organic food is gaining a group of faithful converts in the UK but the concept of organic fish and fishing aquaponically is not a widely known process. Derived from the terms 'Aquaculture' (raising of fish) and 'Hydroponics' (growing produce using only nutrient enhanced water), aquaponics is a system that allows for an entirely sustainable and organic farm system.



Aquaponics in its most basic form is a system whereby the waste products from the fish are recycled to feed the aquatic plants. No water is wasted in this process as it is then cycled from the fish tank to the grow beds and then back to the fish tank, where the cycle begins all over. These plants then feed the fish in a cyclical motion.

In 2010, the European Union decreed that nothing captured or harvested from the wild can be labelled as 'organic'. Their reasoning was that you do not know the history of the fish and therefore you can't be sure if it will meet organic standards without extensive and expensive testing. This decision has been seen as controversial by some activist; however without screening we cannot ensure that the fish that we eat is harvested and produced in a sustainable manner.

To gain more insight into the aquaponic system, AdemsApples interviewed Phil Bowyer a new aquaponic farmer from the Crave Organic Co. in Idaho, USA.



Q. How did you first get into Aquaponics?


Phil: I am new to aquaponics but absolutely love the idea of it. We first became interested in Organic because we didn't feel like we were getting value for money in our weekly shop. Back in the days, we didn't have the right knowledge to make an informed decision and were spending money on substandard products. Now we're much wiser, and have learned why buying organic is so important. Our cold climate makes traditional farming nearly impossible. I live in "farm country", but I have not been able to find anybody that is growing like us. I did meet someone a couple of weeks ago that dabbled in aquaponics, but generally it is uncommon.

Q. How do you farm aquaponically at the Organic Crave Company?


Phil: On our farm we have an aquapoonic system that first converts the ammonia that fish produce as waste, into nitrites which we use to feed the plants. The fish feed the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish. You see, in aquaponics, no water is wasted. The water is then cycled from the fish tank to the grow beds and then back to the fish tank, where the cycle begins all over. Aquaponics uses a lot less water than traditional farming, and our only water loss comes from evaporation.
We're pretty serious about keeping things as pure as possible, so we grow our own duckweed, raise guppies and worms, catch flies and set aside some greens to feed our fish. We make sure that every input into our system is quality


Q. In the U.K. We have strict laws defining what is and what isn't organic. Do you have similar standards in the United States?


Phil. I'm a bit of a rebel, and really do not care for the laws regarding how the term organic can be used. We don't plan on getting a certification, but will use the term anyway (Organic, not certified organic). I feel that I should be allowed to use the term since the system by it's very design is organic

Q. Is organic fish a significant industry in the United States or are you setting the trend?


Phil. Quality fish is virtually non existent here in the U.S.. It all comes from fish farms that just abuse the fish and have horrible conditions. I wouldn't exactly say I'm setting a trend here, as there are other people who are well established here in the states, but for our area we are "pioneers" I suppose.

Q. Is it financially more beneficial to farm fish in this manner?

Phil.
I think sustainable farming isn't really about the financial feasibility, but rather the method. Everything we do will be part of the system and play a roll. Growing this way can be, and usually is, more expensive to get going, especially if you grow indoors. But generally, it's more about the overall finish because you are creating a better quality fish.


Q. What does the future hold for the Organic Farm Company?


Phil. We are constantly trying to come up with new and innovative ideas. While we have been doing vermicomposting, there are things like fruit scraps that don't get put in there. To solve this, we are creating a regular compost bin, which will also utilize the numerous leaves that drop from our oak trees. We do a little bit here, and then try and expand. Next week we'll be going to a chicken expo to see how we can eventually integrate that into our permaculture.

For more information on aquaponics at the Organic farm company then visit http://icraveorganics.com/
For inforamtion on fishing aquaponically in the UK then visit http://www.aquaponics.org.uk/

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