An Israeli entrepreneur is combining modern technology with an age-old technique that combines fishing with agriculture.
Aquaponics uses the methods of aquaculture and hydroponics to raise fish and crops in one closed system.
“It is an ancient method that we can bring up to speed now that we have electricity and fish ponds and great technologies to make aquaponics better than it ever has been,” Moti Cohen, with LivinGreen Urban Ecosystems, said.
Cohen explained that while the Aztecs and ancient rice growers used the method, today the method is used only in isolated areas around with world, but is seeing a slow revival as farmers and NGO’s turn to old methods to solve food woes worldwide.
“We are still missing a lot of experts and refining the growing methods,” Cohen explained, but added the area shows great potential. “People are inventing new things every day, and the promise is huge.”
One advantage that aquaponics has over other agricultural systems is that it can be used in places where space is at a premium or environments where fresh produce or fish are hard to find.
“For instance, there is a hotel in Zanzibar and we have started talking about doing projects there. They have to buy all their fish and plants to eat from the mainland,” Cohen said. “But we can support the hotel in an integrated system right on the island.”
Maintaining an aquaponics farm, however, requires skill and according to Dina Zilberg of Ben-Gurion University it may be best suited for small farmers and personal use rather than large-scale operations.
“In all these integrated systems, you need to be an expert while producing both plants and fish intensively. From what I know, many of the plants don’t do such a good job in removing all the nutrients and a biological filter is still required,” Zilberg noted.
Despite the current limitations, Cohen’s aquaponic systems have drawn the attention of customers worldwide and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which recently asked Cohen to help author a manual on aquaponics.
Cohen has also taught his methods to farmers in the West Bank, Gaza, Cambodia and Ethiopia and plans further missions to help share aquaponics in other nations facing food insecurity.