Aquaponics, which combines fish farming with plant and vegetable farming, is picking up in South Africa as business owners see the benefit – and savings – of combining two proven growing techniques, according to a report in IndependentOnline.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals like snails, fish and shrimp in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water).
The two are integrated to raise fish and plants separately, but side-by-side. Anything from lettuce and water lilies to tomatoes get most of their nutrients from the water that circulates out of the fish ponds.
It’s being done on an abalone farm in Hermanus, a shellfish farm in Saldanha and a trout farm in Franshhoek.
On a smaller scale, Moyo restaurant at Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront has an aquaponics system. The V & A is one of South Africa’s most visited destinations.
And a mining company interested in setting up a commercial auqaponics farm has given Stellenbosch University a grant to do research on methodology.
Aquaculture has grown rapidly over the past 30 years, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In the 1970s aquaculture accounted for about six percent of the fish available for human consumption. By 2006 it was up to 47 percent.
Stellenbosch University is researching the best aquaponics techniques to adopt when farming fish with plants and vegetables.
Henk Stander, manager of the university’s Welgevallen Experimental Farm, said the farm received $10,000 from Richmond Mining and Exploration to build the aquaponics facility. The university will farm rainbow trout and tilapia to determine the kind of vegetables that will be grown.
Successful research could lead to a large-scale commercial project.
The mining company said it plans to implement the methods the university comes up with on a commercial farm in Dullstroom.
“We hope to establish an aquaponics industry on the farm by which fish and vegetables can be raised,” said Martiens van der Merwe, Richmond’s managing director.