Tanks for Din­ner

Rais­ing fish in con­tain­ers on land is eco-friendly. The next step is grow­ing veg­eta­bles in the same wa­ter

BC Business Magazine - - Celebrating 45 Years - —F.S.

Is salmon raised on land the fu­ture of seafood?” asked Na­tional Ge­o­graphic in a story about Kuterra LP, a farm es­tab­lished in 2013 by the 'Namgis First Na­tion in Port Hardy on Van­cou­ver Is­land to raise At­lantic salmon in tanks. West Creek Aqua­cul­ture in Fort Lan­g­ley has pro­duced tank-raised rain­bow trout for 20 years and be­gan sell­ing coho and sock­eye salmon in 2013. Yet West Creek owner Don Read says land-based aqua­cul­ture is a still an im­ma­ture in­dus­try. “Politi­cians and ac­tivists sug­gest it is the al­ter­na­tive to ocean-based salmon, but it is nowhere near a stage to be an al­ter­na­tive to ocean-grown salmon,” he ex­plains.

The fish from B.C.'S hand­ful of land- based aqua­cul­ture farms are con­sid­ered sus­tain­able, with Ocean Wise cer­ti­fi­ca­tion fromm the Van­cou­ver Aquar­ium. The farms use no an­tibi­otics, hor­mones or chem­i­cals, and they com­post the fish waste.

In­stead of com­post­ing the waste, West Creek has ex­per­i­mented with aquapon­ics, grow­ing veg­eta­bles in the same wa­ter as the fish so the ef­flu­ent nour­ishes the plants, which in turn clean the wa­ter. Al­though plant yield in­creased, Read found that he couldn't com­pete with tra­di­tional veg­etable grow­ers. He's still look­ing for a way to mon­e­tize fish ef­flu­ent as plant fer­til­izer, but he thinks aquapon­ics is best suited for farm­ers in the busi­ness of plant, not fish, pro­duc­tion.

Crops raised us­ing aquapon­ics ac­tu­ally tend to be more prof­itable than the fish, ac­cord­ing to U.S. stud­ies. The key is mar­ket­ing them to com­pete with other lo­cal and or­ganic greens. Andrew Rise­man, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of ap­plied bi­ol­ogy and plant breed­ing at UBC, be­lieves aquaponic pro­duce is su­pe­rior to both con­ven­tion­ally grown and or­ganic. “But un­til there's prod­uct dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion in the mar­ket­place where they can get a premium for that spe­cific prod­uct, they're just lumped in with or­gan­ics or chem­i­cal-free or pes­ti­cide-free or what­ever other generic group­ing they fit into,” he says. “Much like the land-based fish pro­duc­tion—they're grouped in with farmed salmon.”

Matthias and Jutta Zaple­tal es­tab­lished their Prince Ge­orge aquapon­ics op­er­a­tion, North­ern Bio­pon­ics Ltd., in 2010. They pro­duce about 80 kilo­grams of let­tuce, 10 to 20 kilo­grams of basil and 10 to 20 kilo­grams of mi­cro­greens each week, some of which they sell at the lo­cal farm­ers mar­ket to sev­eral restau­rants and a small health store. They also sell 250 to 300 tilapia a year. “Aquapon­ics is a sys­tem where you have a de­cent­size green­house where you can grow a bunch of veg­eta­bles, where you can make some money, but for­get that you can feed the world with it,” Matthias says. Iowa State Univer­sity aquapon­ics re­searcher D. Allen Pat­tillo dis­agrees. In a March 2017 bulletin for the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture's North Cen­tral Re­gional Aqua­cul­ture Cen­ter, Pat­tillo claims aquapon­ics can be done on a wide range of scales, from a home aquar­ium to a multi-acre com­mer­cial fa­cil­ity ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing sub­stan­tial amounts of fish and plants. Plus, he notes, aquapon­ics uses about 10 per cent of the land area and five per cent of the wa­ter needed for con­ven­tional agri­cul­ture, mak­ing it ideal for in­ten­sive ur­ban gar­den­ing.

I'M BACK This ro­bot be­longs to one of sev­eral fam­i­lies de­vel­oped by Kindred Sys­tems

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