For now, tilapia farming is banned in California, so Santa Cruz Aquaponics has opted for catfish. (Foto:Stock File/FIS)
Aquaponics project to launch in Santa Cruz
Monday, August 23, 2010, 12:40 (GMT + 9)
A man named Chris Newman has taken empty greenhouse nurseries and used them for aquaponics -- the symbiotic farming of fish and plants in water.
Newman has turned 14,000 sqft of greenhouse space into a structure of stream channels, gravel beds and water pipes. He intends to shortly use the system to raise fish and grow vegetables commercially under the name "Santa Cruz Aquaponics.”
"With the cut-flower industry in the toilet and all those greenhouses sitting there, this is something I can do," said Newman. "I'm pushing the envelope here but I think this is something that's bound to take off."
Although aquaponics has become increasingly popular over the past few decades, its commercial application has been limited, reports Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Editor of the Wisconsin-based Aquaponics Journal Rebecca Nelson said that only a few aquaponics businesses are active in the US. The regulators of the trade, California Fish and Game wardens, said they do not know of any operating in Newman’s Santa Cruz area.
"I think in the next 10 years or so you're going to see more aquaponics farms in the US and around the world," commented Nelson. "Farmed fish is really where we're going as far as what we'll have access to."
Aquaponics evolved from the switch from fishing to aquaculture to spare depleted fisheries, and evolved into taking advantage of the extra water by sowing crops. It is both highly efficient for fish and vegetable production and has a minimal impact on the environment relative to other ways of farming fish and vegetables, Nelson told.
Newman is confident he can capitalise on high quality, ecologically responsible the products.
"People here care about food ingredients and where they're sourced," he said.
He has dug a series of 40-foot channels in his greenhouse in which fish will be swimming underneath two stories of gravel beds to be used for growing watercress and eventually other vegetables.
The water will move from the fish channels with its accompanying nitrogen and other plant-friendly nutrients through the vegetable beds, and subsequently into a contiguous channel where duckweed will be grown for fish food. Cleansed by the plants, the water will then flow back to the fish.
Worm castings will be added as an antibiotic for the fish and fertilizer for the plants.
Newman would like to begin raising tilapia because it is robust and grows quickly, but California law prohibits tilapia farming. Newman will thus begin with catfish.
Meanwhile, he has started lobbying state regulators to change in the law. But although officials from the Department of Fish and Game are currently reevaluating the ban, the tilapia’s potential to escape and naturalise in state rivers and streams may keep the law as is.
By Natalia Real