Saturday, May 24, 2008

Local Aquaculture

The decentralization of agriculture offers a range of potential options for food production, but usually we think of this. City Farmer featured a home-scaled aquaculture as a means to produce high amounts of food, in this case 2000 lbs in a year (38 lbs per week).

:: image via City Farmer

Tilapia is a common fish used in aquaculture, due to it's large size, rapid growth, and palatability. Further explanations gives more creedence to their use, via Wikipedia: "This is due to their omnivorous diet, mode of reproduction (the fry do not pass through a planktonic phase), tolerance of high stocking density, and rapid growth. In some regions the fish can be put out in the rice fields when rice is planted, and will have grown to edible size (12–15 cm, 5–6 inches) when the rice is ready for harvest."

:: image via Wikipedia

The potential for this fish is amazing - and differs from some of the more popular 'farmed' fish: Again via Wikipedia: "One recent estimate for the FAO puts annual production of tilapia at about 1.5 million tonnes, a quantity comparable to the annual production of farmed salmon and trout. Unlike salmon, which rely on high-protein feeds based on fish or meat, commercially important tilapiine species eat a vegetable or cereal based diet. Tilapias raised in inland tanks or channels are considered safe for the environment, since their waste and disease should be contained and not spread to the wild."

:: image via
Tilapia Vita Farms

Some additional info can be gleaned from Edgar F. Sanchez of Orlando, Florida, proprietor of the Tilapia Vita Farms who has a website outlining his personal home-scale aquaculture program.

:: images via Tilapia Vita Farms

Another pair of small-scale examples are found via Treehugger - the first a 2007 summary of aquaponics (the hybrid of aquaculture and hydroponics). From the site: "Basically, the process involves fish, plants and bacteria. The cycle consists of fish by-products (or to the less delicate … ‘poo’) being pumped into grow beds filled with gravel. Bacteria convert the ammonia from the ‘fish poo’ into nitrites and then other good bacteria convert the nitrites in nitrates, which are used by the plants as nutrients. The beauty of the system is that a balance occurs in the eco-system whereby the water is sufficiently filtered by the plants who inturn obtain all the necessary nutrients from the fish."

:: Aquaponics - image via Treehugger

A more recent post via Treehugger, of which the "...Urban Aquaculture Center (UAC) in Milwaukee. The UAC intends to combine a 150,000-sq ft indoor aquaculture/agriculture facility with educational facilities, sustainable farming exhibits, a restaurant and fish market."

:: image via Treehugger

Some additional technical info, from the UAC website: "The Great Lakes WATER Institute and Growing Power are conducting tests on the ability of plants, worms and bacteria to remediate water in a perch grow-out system. The results thus far are encouraging. Adult perch have done well in a greenhouse environment with only a pump to move water to gravel beds containing plants and beneficial nitrifying bacteria. This system, which closely mimics nature, shows promise."

:: image via UAC

While the 'home' scale label of the above is debatable when you consider the land-print required for this endeavor, some more pictures of Mathieu Lehanneur’s Local River (previously on L+U here). I dismissed the concept a bit in the previous post - and definitely double this resistance with incorporation of sea-snakes in the tanks. There's snakes in the house!!! Someone get Sam Jackson.

:: images via Dezeen

Finally, acknowledgement of one of the pioneers of aquaculture (and many things sustainability, before it had a name) is John Todd. A posting in Inhabitat featured Todd and his receipt of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge award. His winning proposal is entitled: "Comprehensive Design for a Carbon Neutral World: The Challenge of Appalachia, which lays out a strategy for transforming one and a half million acres of strip-mined lands in Appalachia into a harmonious self-sustaining community."

:: images via Inhabitat

Arguably, we wouldn't be having these conversations with the inspiration of Todd and his group of innovators from the 1970's. The idea of Todd's 'eco-machines' which are synonymous, sans trademark, to living machines - offer a glimpse of the ideas of the moder aquacultural movement. It will be interesting to see how these are adapted to increase production, reclaim wastes, adapt to climates, and also start becoming incorporated into more urban and dense areas. Sushi anyone?


  1. Currently consulting on a large-scale aquaponics project in Puerto Rico and having worked with John Todd for many years, I felt I should chime in here...

    One of the longest running aquaponics examples out there is the University of the Virgin Islands Aquaponics project on St. Croix run by Dr. James Rackocy. They have an amazing weeklong workshop every year around June.

  2. Brad. A week in St. Croix sounds fantastic for sure :) Thanks for the link - and it'd be great to hear more about your work in aquaponics... it's a fascinating topic for sure. JK

  3. Working for John Todd, I was involved in a variety of aquaponics-related projects including:
    4 cell ecological aquaculture. An attempt at a self-sufficient, recirculating system that had a fish rearing tank, a pond-bottom ecology tank, a higher plant tank, and an algal tank.
    Yellow Perch ecological aquaculture. Built as a prototype for Great Lakes Brewing Co., this was a 5 cell system with 2 rearing tanks and biological treatment. The fish were fed conventional feed as well as organisms from our various waste treatment technologies (worms, freshwater invertebrates, etc).
    Integrated Food Production Systems. Growing fungi, plants, fish, worms, livestock, and compost all under one (figurative) roof.

    A project I'm currently consulting for is a 360 acre farm on the south shore of Puerto Rico that is the prototype of a new technology (vertical aquaponics). Vertical steel towers support gutter-like crop trays that are fed water charged with fish waste. The cleaned up water is returned to the fish tanks. The project is to be run off of alternative energy; a first for something on this scale.

    And yes, St. Croix is very beautiful. I've lived there on and off over the years. Go if you can.


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