Although aquaponics is still in its infancy, Fort Langley–based West Creek Aquaculture and others see potential for this alternative to conventional agriculture
Felicity Stone of BC Business reports the fish from B.C.’s handful of land-based aquaculture farms are considered sustainable, with Ocean Wise certification from the Vancouver Aquarium. The farms use no antibiotics, hormones or chemicals, and they compost the fish waste.
Instead of composting the waste, West Creek has experimented with aquaponics, growing vegetables in the same water as the fish so the effluent nourishes the plants, which in turn clean the water. Although plant yield increased, Read found that he couldn’t compete with traditional vegetable growers. He’s still looking for a way to monetize fish effluent as plant fertilizer, but he thinks aquaponics is best suited for farmers in the business of plant, not fish, production.
Crops raised using aquaponics actually tend to be more profitable than the fish, according to U.S. studies. The key is marketing them to compete with other local and organic greens. Andrew Riseman, an associate professor of applied biology and plant breeding at UBC, believes aquaponic produce is superior to both conventionally grown and organic. “But until there’s product differentiation in the marketplace where they can get a premium for that specific product, they’re just lumped in with organics or chemical-free or pesticide-free or whatever other generic grouping they fit into,” he says. “Much like the land-based fish production—they’re grouped in with farmed salmon.”
The key is proving the produce is microbiologically safer?
Guess the aquaponics folks wouldn’t want to market that.