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FAI Launches Sustainable Fish Farming

UK - FAI Director Mike Gooding and Fish Vet Group Director Pete Southgate have teamed up to develop Oxfords first truly sustainable fish farm.

Endeavouring to find economic, environmental and ethical solutions to meet consumer demand for animal protein, the two pioneers have decided to transform the farm's disused slurry pit into a fish pond.

The cost of animal protein for our dinner plates is rising and will rise further with growing pressure on land, water and animal stock, says Mr Gooding.

The cost of the proteins needed to feed those animals is also increasing and when we look carefully at the feed needed to grow an animal to then feed us, there are some chilling statistics.

"In terms of conversion ratios, beef cattle need to eat about 10 kilos of feed to produce 1 kilo of beef. Much of that is grain. Put simply, 10 kilos of grain will feed a lot more people than 1 kilo of beef will. With a billion people going to bed hungry every night it will soon make more sense to grown grain for human consumption in place of some of the animal feed pastures, so eventually red meat will become even more of a luxury.

Talking about the decision to develop aquaponics at FAI, Mr Gooding says: Because we winter house our cattle in straw yards, we no longer have need for the slurry pit adjacent to the cow shed. It made sense to tap into the expertise of FVG to help us research the benefits of using the space for fish farming. The lagoon now collects rain water from the farm building roof spaces and samples were sent to the FVG scientists to test for purity. Once we got the all-clear, we stocked the pond with young carp, bought for 1.25 each.

Carp have an almost vegetarian diet and they will feed predominantly on algae (itself a good source of protein) which will be produced naturally through the ponds eco system. The lagoon is a self-managing ecosystem, full of biodiversity, which we can work to our productive advantage. We will be measuring how well the eco system works and if we get it right we wont need to feed the fish any prepared food, although fertilisation to sustain algal and invertebrate growth may be necessary.

The carp will breed this spring and find their natural stocking level. Within 2-3 years of being in the pond, if all goes well, each fish will reach 30-40 cms and weigh 1-2 kilos. When the carp are of a harvestable size, farm staff will net them, then clean them over a couple of days in small freshwater pools (circular cow troughs), before selling them to local fishmongers and feeding visitors to the farm.

Looking to the future, Mr Gooding and Mr Southgate agree that if all goes to plan, they will be able to show that many old slurry lagoons on redundant dairy farms could be brought back into a new form of production that meets all the criteria of a sustainable system.

"We are convinced that sustainable and commercially viable aquaponics systems will truly contribute towards global food production."

the Fish Site Editor

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