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Eco Fish Farm Vision Stirs up a Frenzy

by Ellen Hardy
24 September 2008, at 1:00am

CANADA - A Canadian fish farmer has developed a new breed of fish farm that is said to have environmentalists in a frenzy of excitement.

Mr. Swift's farm is part of a Canadian research concept known as integrated multi-trophic aquaculture being tested on both coasts by the universities of New Brunswick and Victoria, reports the Globe and Mail. The idea is to grow one species in conjunction with others in a multi-level system that balances out biological and chemical processes.

It involves one fed species - in this case, the salmon eat pellets made from wild marine material developed by animal nutritionist Dr. MaryLou Swift (Mr. Swift's wife). Then other plants and animals that extract their nutrients from either the solid or water waste are introduced. At Swift Aquaculture, waste solids are filtered and become fertilizer for field crops such as garlic and beans, while waste water is used to grow wasabi, watercress and algae. The algae, in turn, become a feed supplement for the crayfish bred in Mr. Swift's freshwater pond.

No additional nutrients are brought onto the farm. According to the Globe and Mail, it's a meal in one backyard.

"We only have four acres," says Mr. Swift. "Yet I could grow hundreds of thousands of fish - that's the beauty of aquaculture. One tank can hold 2,000 fish, and that's not high-density at all.

Mr. Swift imagines a future where every major city has land-based fish farms supplying high-quality, sustainably grown fish for a local market. The key, he argues, is to find people with existing horticultural infrastructure. "There's a lot of interest right now in Alberta and Saskatchewan to introduce aquaculture into the swine barns. They're losing $50 to $70 a head on pigs, so they're looking for a new business."

This is a market ready to explode, he says, citing the fact that a land-based system in Washington is supplying Whole Foods. "You get a place like that interested, and that triggers a market. I think there's going to be a big shift, and coho is a fish that can do it."

Ellen Hardy