A dou­ble har­vest

In aquapon­ics, plants and fish grow to­gether in one in­te­grated sys­tem.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ECO WATCH - By DAVID NI­CHOL­SON

US­ING fish to make fer­tiliser isn’t a new con­cept. But John Morris has mod­ernised the process through a so­phis­ti­cated farm­ing op­er­a­tion called aquapon­ics.

Last Fe­bru­ary, Morris turned his 3.2ha Isle of Wight, Vir­ginia, spread into the Herb Aqua Farm. In­side two large green­houses, Morris raises ti­lapia fish in large tanks. The fish pro­duce waste, and the waste­water is pro­cessed into a kind of liq­uid fer­tiliser. Part of the wa­ter is chan­nelled into hy­dro­ponic beds in­side the green­house and the rest is pumped out­side to fer­tilise Morris’ in-ground crops.

The op­er­a­tion gives Morris two sources of in­come. By March, his first batch of ti­lapia will have grown large enough to sell. And the crops he grows – let­tuce, herbs and veg­eta­bles – can be mar­keted year-round.

“It’s the only farm­ing method where you can pro­duce both a pro­tein prod­uct and a farm­ing prod­uct,” Morris says.

Lisa T. Perry, di­rec­tor of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in Isle of Wight County, says Morris’ op­er­a­tion fits in with the county’s goals. “It’s an­other form of agri-busi­ness, and it shows ex­actly how things are chang­ing in that field,” she said.

In aquapon­ics, plants and fish grow to­gether in one in­te­grated sys­tem – without soil. The re­sult is a con­tin­u­ous sup­ply of fresh, or­ganic food that can be grown in min­i­mal space with al­most no im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

Morris, 56, is pas­sion­ate about “green” meth­ods of farm­ing that don’t re­quire her­bi­cides and pes­ti­cides. These prod­ucts have pol­luted the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay and killed off the earth­worms and the healthy bac­te­ria in the soil.

In his farm, two 7m by 32m cov­ered bays hold a maze of steel tanks and pipes. At the far end sit large hy­dro­ponic beds wait­ing to be planted. Morris uses a wood fur­nace to heat the fa­cil­ity. Large grow lights sus­pended from the ceil­ing en­sures year-round grow­ing op­er­a­tions.

Morris pur­chased his first batch of small ti­lapia fin­ger­lings back in Au­gust. The warm wa­ter fish live in tanks heated to about 22°C. The waste­water is fil­tered through a clar­i­fier that traps the solids. The nu­tri­ent-rich wa­ter is pumped into the beds.

In his hy­dro­ponic beds he’s grow­ing basil, let­tuce, Swiss chard, yel­low pea toma­toes and radic­chio. He wants to add kale be­cause “ev­ery­one at the farm­ers’ mar­ket was ask­ing for it ... they juice it.” — Daily Press/McClatchy Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

In­te­grated farm­ing: John Morris prac­tises aquapon­ics at his farm in Vir­ginia, the united States — the waste­water from his ti­lapia fish ponds fer­tilises his crops. — MCT

In his green­house, Morris grows greens hy­dro­pon­i­cally us­ing waste­water from the fish he raises.

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