Aquatic garden. (PHoto: Universidad de Costa Rica)
Aquatic gardens created for large-scale production
Monday, March 04, 2013, 04:00 (GMT + 9)
Scientists at the University of Costa Rica (UCR) are enhancing a farming method that could provide a solution to the two major obstacles to agricultural production: the limited fertile land for farming and water shortages.
After more than 12 years of study, a team of researchers found a way to directly farm products on the surface of seas and lakes. With a large-scale aquatic agriculture that is economically viable, the problems of space and water will be solved.
The research was led by Dr. Ricardo Radulovich Ramirez, who worked with scientists from the School of Agricultural Engineering, associated to the headquarters,in the Pacific, to the Centre for Research in Grain and Seeds (Cigras) and to the School of Agricultural Engineering of the UCR.
The project consisted of developing marine gardens, that is to say, seawater plantations, both in the Pacific and the Caribbean, where seaweed was farmed and fish, shellfish and shrimp were produced.
Besides, the scientists worked on the creation of freshwater gardens in the lagoon in Arenal. On this occasion, Dr. Schery Umanzor, a scientist of the School of Agronomy and of Cigras, coordinated the research.
Radulovich explained that "the models being devised are flexible and adaptable to different growing conditions, such as the degree of oxygenation of the lake and the use to be given to the harvested product."
The models are also updated according to the purpose of producing food for human or for animal consumption. In this sense, an example could be the creation of a herbivore fish hatchery, both in marine and freshwater environments.
These fish "could be fed directly on aquatic plants, which would avoid using large quantities of concentrate, as they would be fed directly from the floating plants," summarized Radulovich.
The researchers explain that the idea is to create technology that would offer the possibility of farm products "in thousands of square kilometers of lake surfaces, where if about 20 tonnes per hectare are obtained, a considerable production would be generated at low cost."
While growing plants in water has been developed in hydroponics and it was even practised by the indigenous peoples, the novelty of this project, according to its proponents, is that its aim is to find ways to do so in a viable way on a large scale to have an impact on food production.
"The key idea is that production on the surface of the lake does not waste water since through farming the same evaporation would occur as it would take place on the lake surface," highlighted the project manager.
Another advantage of this type of farming method is that plants are less susceptible to be attacked by insect pests.
By Silvina Corniola