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Capetonian Starts Fish Farm In Shipping Containers

Capetonian Starts Fish Farm In Shipping Containers

Cape Town entrepreneur Alan Fleming has designed a shipping-container fish farm that he said is profitable, affordable, repeatable, transportable, lockable and stackable, according to a report in AllAfrica.

Fleming, who has been developing the project along with gardener-turned-aquaculturist Lungile Mafilika, says the fish farm is a “simple business opportunity capable of producing four tons of fish a year.”

The fish farm is one of 23 finalists bringing technical solutions for basic supply problems in the inaugural Empowering People Award, a competition launched by German-based Siemens Stiftung at the U.N. Summit for Sustainable Development in Rio.

More than 800 entries from around the world were submitted for the award, which aims to “connect innovations for basic supply problems in developing countries with potential partners, investors and other key players in development work.”

The winner will be announced in Nairobi Oct. 30.

The shipping container fish farm prototype costs $18,750 and produces four tons of fish per year, at a net profit of $4,500 per year, Fleming said.

“I’m trying to reach a situation where it gives four people (or maybe one family) an income and/or high quality protein, right where they live,” he said.

He hopes to take the operational expense of electricity out of the equation, instead using renewable energy (solar, wind, batteries). This will add $25,000 to the price but will give four people a permanent livelihood of about 80,000 rand per year, he said.


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The farm comprises includes six 1,500-liter tanks, a 200-liter solids filter (to deal with solid waste), a 5,000-liter bio-filter (to deal with the chemical waste), a circulation pump and an aerator.

It dumps 1 percent of its volume per day to maintain water quality. This nutrient-rich water can be supplied to vegetable farmers as an additional source of income.

Fleming says the farm can be stocked with tilapia, a hardy fish that feeds on phytoplankton, microscopic plants. This is cost effective for a cash-poor collective or family for use as fish protein.

The farm is also designed to meet the livelihood and food needs of poorer urban families or farming collectives. The space required for the container is minimal, and it can operate on energy obtained from solar power, Fleming said.

“The fish farm is South African innovation in action,” Fleming said. “With urbanization on the increase and unemployment a crisis, it demonstrates globally that amazing solutions to inner-city intensive protein production, new livelihoods which create new sources of wealth, and less reliance on a depleting marine environment are completely possible.”

Fleming is director of The Business Place, an entrepreneur development and assistance organization in Philippi, Cape Town.