Sustainable Seafood Businesses Tackle Food Deserts with an Ancient Farming Technique
One of the most interesting trends to emerge from the Fish 2.0 business competition is the increasing use of aquaponics, which combines fish farming (aquaculture) with growing plants in water (hydroponics). This is nothing new—people have been practicing aquaponics for centuries, in the Aztecs’ floating crop islands, the rice paddies of Asia and elsewhere. What’s different now is that entrepreneurs are developing technologies and business models for commercial-scale aquaponics farms serving communities with limited access to locally grown fish and vegetables.
This is exciting because many parts of the world—in developed and developing countries—don’t have enough fresh seafood and produce, which are essential to good nutrition. Aquaponics farms deliver produce in bountiful amounts, plus seafood in growing volumes, and they can do it with far less environmental impact than dry-land farms. In fact, aquaponics is a model of simplicity and efficiency.
Here’s how it works: The fish—most commonly tilapia, catfish and shrimp—grow in their own tank, nourished by fish feed. The water carrying their nutrient-rich waste then gets pumped to an adjacent bed of floating produce, such as basil and other herbs, tomatoes, head lettuce and salad greens. As the produce absorbs the nutrients through its roots, it naturally filters and cleanses the water, which then recirculates back to the fish tank.
This almost closed-loop system produces dramatically higher produce yields than dry-land farming, while using 95 percent less water (aquaponics farms have minimal water loss other than through evaporation) and just one-tenth of the land. When properly set up, aquaponics farms also use less energy, generate their own natural fertilizer, recycle their own waste, and require no harmful antibiotics or pesticides. And because they can be located near key distribution and transportation hubs, or even on grocery store rooftops, they can cut down the food miles between producers —> Read More