There is a new industry slowly emerging here in Belize. It’s called aquaponics; a method of farming that uses the excrements of fish. There was a short seminar at the Radisson Hotel whereby aquaponics expert, John Pade and Rebecca Nelson of Nelson and Pade Incorporated advised interested Belizeans the aquaponics industry and best practices to use. A Belizean who is one of the key pioneers of the industry here in Belize, Jimmy Jones, spoke to Love News more about the process.
“Aquaponics is a combination of aqua culture which is raising fish, in our application, in tanks and vegetables using hydroponic section. The difference between aquaponics and hydroponics is that the hydroponics use chemical fertilizers which you have to mix and blend but aquaponics; they use a biological fertilizer which is produced by the fish. So, in essence you feed the fish, they produce waste, the waste goes through a bacteria process that breaks it down from ammonia to nitrite to nitrate; nitrate is basically plant food, along with other processes that happen. Basically, you’re growing fish and vegetables using the same infrastructure; the water goes through a filtration system and you grow the plants without using soil. In our application, we use tilapia, I happen to grow the two varieties and two colors, the red one and the grey one. You can use any fresh water fish but tilapia is mostly use because tilapia has been tested in a farm setting, in an aquaponics setting because you want a fish that will produce enough waste that will supply the nutrients for the plants and tilapia has been tested and proven to work very well.”
“The idea is to introduce people to aquaponics technology, so, they can understand what it is, how it works and how they can use it to grow food in their communities. Aquaponics is a very natural method of raising both fish and plants together; so, you have two crops that come out of one system and it’s very efficient; it’s all natural, there are no pesticides or herbicides and you can grow food in aquaponics every week; so, you grow a lot of food in a small place and so, setting up to feed a community or your family or a town is very doable in aquaponics.”
“It would be good to look at what you’re importing now and the costs of those imports and the quality because by growing vegetables and fish right here in Belize, you will always be ensured of a steady supply and the quality would be very high; so, growing food within your own country as opposed to the cost of importing it is what makes many countries who don’t have a large agricultural base very interested in aquaponics.”
“Our hope is to really start an aquaponics industry in this country. You can have people providing to their local communities or you can have resorts, potentially growing their own herbs and lettuce on site to address some of the lack of supply issues that they have. I anticipate that this is going to become a pretty big industry here in Belize.”
Jones has his aquaponics system set up in Lord Banks and is currently using over twelve hundred tilapia fish to operate it. In a monthly basis, Jones says, that this production generates over two thousand heads of lettuces.