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Researches on the potential conversion of conventional fish farms into organic by establishing a model and good practice guide

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ECOFISH (Researches on the potential conversion of conventional fish farms into organic by establishing a model and good practice guide)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2019-05-31

The conversion of conventional aquaculture farms in sustainable aquaculture farms help aquaculture businesses to achieve economic viability and competitiveness. Sustainable aquaculture is undoubtedly the management technique that has most contributed to support aquaculture businesses to adopt aqua-environmental measures for protection of the environment, natural resources and landscape.
Aquaponics is known as a sustainable production system for plants and fish that combines traditional aquaculture (aquatic livestock), such as fish, crayfish and shrimp with the hydroponics (growing plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. The Aquaponics is a production system where the waste is utilized as nutrients is a system sustainable for the environment, where high-value products on the market are obtained because they are grown with organic nutrients and free of chemicals or pesticides.
By this research project, we aim at to improving onboard waste management and reduce the amount of waste disposed of inappropriately. In order to achieve this goal, we have the following objectives: to integrate aquaculture production system with agricultural production system (aquaponics) and to reconcile and achieve social, economic and environmental objectives with processing and marketing action to add more value to end aquaponics products

Specific Objectives:
- to support aquaculture businesses to adopt aqua-environmental measures for protection of the environment, natural resources and landscape;
- to reconcile and achieve social, economic and environmental objectives;
- to improve onboard waste management and reduce the amount of waste disposed of inappropriately;
- processing and marketing action to add more value to end products;
- to integrate aquaculture production system with agricultural production system (aquaponics).
From the beginning of the project to the present, all the work packages as set out in the project's implementation plan were carried out.
We have been considering improving waste management in classic fish farming systems and reducing the amount of waste we eliminate and at the same time providing aquaculture farms with measures to protect the environment, natural resources and the landscape.
We also looked at the economic and social effects of aquaponic systems, as well as the added value that final products can achieve: fish and plants.
We have also pursued the integration of the aquaculture production system with the agricultural production system. Through the project we have shown that one of the most interesting aspects of acvaponium is the ability to get a large amount of food in a small area.
Dissemination of research results materialized by publishing articles in professional journals, ISI quoted and through participation in national and international conferences, whose volumes are indexing in ISI Proceedings and / or International Data Bases.
Aquaculture developments raise issues of concern in terms of environmental impacts and ecosystem health. For aquaculture systems to be sustainable, they should not cause damage to natural systems by critically increasing (e.g. nutrients) or decreasing the concentrations of natural substances (e.g. chlorophyll). Other potential impacts relate to increasing concentration of man-made substances, such as persistent chemicals and through physical disturbance leading to habitat changes.
Aquaponics is a food production system that combines soil-less vegetable growing (hydroponics) and fish farming (aquaculture) within a closed re-circulating system. This combination of food production methods (hydroponics and aquaculture) removes the problems associated with the individual production methods.
For aquaculture, the main problem with Recirculating Aquaculture Systems is the production of Nitrate rich waste water that must be treated or dumped, creating major environmental problems. For hydroponics, the main problem is the complete reliance on chemical fertilizers to grow the vegetables.
When both methods are combined in an aquaponic unit, the nutrient-rich wastewater from the fish tanks, which would normally need to be treated or dumped, is used as an organic fertilizer for plant production. In turn, this removes the need for chemical fertilizers for plant growth using hydroponics.
Advantages for Aquaponic Food Production:
- Uses organic waste as the plant fertilizer
- Uses natural pest controls
- Tends to produce better tasting and at times more nutritional crops
- Potential for year-round production if growing environment can be controlled (i.e. greenhouse)
- Imitates a natural eco-system thus making it a highly sustainable food production method
- Increasing population & Urbanization
- Declining land agricultural productivity
- Increasing demand for healthy, pesticide free produce
It is considered that the model multi-use aquaponics production platforms have socioeconomic and environmental impacts on aquaculture, recreational fishing, yachting and boating and other water-based activities. They also have an impact on land-based activities, agricultural tourism, water waste management, regional employment (direct and indirect) and training opportunities.
Components of the pilot plant of the aquaculture recirculating system (filter substrate)
Components of the pilot plant of the aquaculture recirculation system (fish tank)