Aquaculture for all

Fish farmers advised to add plants

CANADA - A farmer whose sole product is fish can harvest bigger profits if a vegetable or herb crop is added to the system, said presenters at a conference on aquaculture.

This form of agriculture, called aquaponics, is still rare in Alberta, said Nick Savidov, a research scientist with Alberta Agriculture's crop diversification centre in Brooks.

Bacteria convert the fish waste to nutrients, which are taken up by plants growing in hydroponic troughs. The plants clean the water, which is then piped back to the fish tanks.

Water is conserved, harmful compounds are cleaned out of wastewater, no pesticides are used, organic crops are produced and profits increase.

Aquaponics seems to be a winner from all perspectives. Yet Savidov, who has done extensive research on this form of farming at the Brooks research station, says he knows of only two farmers in Alberta who have ventured into the business.

Ron Clark, an Alberta farmer keen to start an aquaponics operation, says funding is a problem.

"It's difficult to go to a commercial operation because bankers look at you like you have four heads when you bring it up," he said.

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