Thabiso Scotch Mufambi
Harare – A South African aquaculture firm has partnered a Germany-based investor to set up the largest aquaponics facility in Southern Africa, with annual output of 200 tonnes of freshwater fish and vegetables.
Aquaponics is an emerging agricultural practice which makes use of a combination of aquaculture – which entails raising aquatic animals in a controlled (land-based) re-circulating environment – and hydroponics, which is the growing of plants in a water-based (soilless) solution that is rich in nutrients.
In aquaponics, the fish’s natural excretion, which is ammonia-rich, is converted into nutrients by beneficial bacteria and then fed to plants as a natural fertiliser via root absorption.
By replicating a biological ecosystem, aquaponic food production is by far more productive, environmental friendly and uses only a fraction of water than traditional farming methods.
The centre for excellence facility owned by Integrated Aquaculture (Pvt) Ltd at Hekpoort farm in Gauteng currently produces fresh Nile Tilapia, baby leaf spinach, spring onions, chives, mint and water cress.
Integrated Aquaculture established the facility in partnership with Desertfoods International of Germany.
“The weekly harvest capacity is in the range of 20,000 units of organically cultivated greens,” reads a statement by Integrated Aquaculture. “The farming approach applied fulfils almost all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as it provides a substantial contribution especially towards achieving local food security, showcasing technology, enabling knowledge transfer, innovation, job creation and good health and well-being.”
Integrated Aquaculture founder and CEO, Lance Quiding, said the initiative was in line with the South African government’s master plan for food safety and security, and responsible and water-wise farming.
“The impact of the current pandemic in combination with the changing weather patterns have underpinned our firm belief that the resilient and sustainable aquaponic farming practice is a key ingredient for the much-needed revolution of our country’s food and agriculture system,” he said.
Karsten Jansen, co-founder and MD of Desertfoods International said there was scope for spreading the farming technology beyond South Africa.
“The partnership with Integrated Aquaculture represents a role model for us to establishing similar setups in neighbouring countries and even beyond, ie in the entire SADC area.”