The solutions to the most pressing problems of our day don’t necessarily have to be complex and expensive. Sometimes nature puts the solution right in front of us.

Last week a very special conversation took place in our community site. Amy Crawford, a member from Northern California, wrote a blog post titled ‘Interesting Challenge – Moving the Research Community to ‘Support’ the Local Community‘. It was about her experience as an aquaponic gardener at the 8th Annual Engineering Conference on Aquaculture. Amy came from the medical world and is now working with her husband to create a sustainable farm to help provide a local food source for her community. She is part of the intelligent, dedicated, grass-roots community that is trying to change the way that food is sourced in this country – one small farm at a time.

Her post focused on her frustration listening to presentation after presentation about complex solutions to problems in the aquaculture world that are solved through aquaponics. The response to her post was fascinating. Matt, a community member serving in Afghanistan, wrote about how aquaponics could change lives over there. Raychel wrote from an academic’s viewpoint. Other’s chimed in with heartfelt, thoughtful perspectives. Amy responded with detailed replies and a follow-up post titled ‘The Ivory Tower vs Real World Realities’.

I am re-posting Amy’s initial post here with her permission in the hopes that it will gather some traction and get others interested in this discussion. 

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Amy Crawford of AquaponicsCommunity.comInteresting Challenge – Moving the Research Community to ‘Support’ the Local Community

by Amy Crawford in AquaponicsCommunity.com

Got back from the 8th Annual Engineering Conference on Aquaculture, Roanoke, VA.

I was impressed by two things:

1) how much they have accomplished in the high density production of fish, and

2) how hard they are working to solve the very problems that aquaponics solves so well.

Research papers presented and attended by engineers from 23 countries!

They are investing an enormous amount of time, money, and energy (literally, electrical energy) to produce tonnes of fish. Most of the major issues, DO (dissolved oxygen), waste products, water treatment can be managed effectively with aquaponics but not at the tonnage that they are trying to achieve.

Most of the papers presented were on the order of how to solve those problems within a high density aquaculture setting; raising fish in isolation.

One of the newest research topics: bio-floc… feeding fish from the microorganisms that grow in the system. The concern is that the cost of “fish meal” is sky rocketing (not so much the fact that the oceans are being stripped to feed the aqua-cultured fish), with wheat & soybean to follow.

But why the high density? Why that approach?

The majority of funding, of course, comes from the “industrial” corporations at the university research centers. Think CAFO … i.e. confined animal feeding operations… feed lots (cattle, hog, chicken, etc) that can maximize profits on the smallest footprint.

I saw some stunning results… tanks full of Atlantic salmon, 8 lbs each, at least… in pristine water, with an annual tonnage of 50, being projected, for delivery. Incredibly dependent on very, very high energy input, O2 injectors (cost of the O2), fed by the ocean “junk” fish, wheat, and corn currently. With the bio-floc development the dependence on ocean fishmeal can be reduced.

BioFloc, at this point, is filtered, drawn off, dried, pelleted, and fed back to the fish (again, a very high energy intense process).So most of the research is done which will support the current industry model as they are providing the grant money.

When asked what our interest was (my husband & I) many conference attendees were fascinated by the idea of including grow-beds to round out a fish growth system! Explaining that we are developing a sustainable farm with grass fed beef, heritage pork, dairy cows, and free range poultry… and would like to add fish, as well as hydroponic grow-beds, in addition to our organic gardens, for our local market.

Our interest is to develop a system that could work in small communities with minimal energy and water use. It did not have to produce tonnage… just enough for a local food market (i.e. the 100 mile diet). We were repeatedly asked to have information forwarded to them. Many of these requestors where PhD’s, MD’s, and industry experts!

The challenge, I think, is to develop the documentation, collect the data, and then present it as a very viable alternative for the niche market/local sustainability.

Anyone have thoughts on this subject???? Seems to me that these education facilities are built with tax payer money and the research that is being done there, should also benefit the “layman”. I think for some of these guys, if there was a request, they would be more than happy to “work” on a project that has a broader base in a less centralized system.