On this week’s Future Farming, it’s all about fish farming and systems capable of farming fish better.
Bill Martin, a fish farmer in the Blue Ridge, Virginia, USA, thinks he has figured out the best system to farm fish, as reported by the National Geographic. Here in a warehouse, Bill farms White Tilapia fish indoors, to a huge size. His farm, is now one of the world’s largest indoor fish farms.
He models his system on the poultry industry and he claims his fish are extremely happy. Each day Martin sells up to 12,000 pounds of live Tilapia to Asian Markets, from Washington to Toronto. Such is his success, he is now also planning to build another farm on the Western Coast of the US.
“Generally they show they’re not happy by dying. I haven’t lost a tank of fish yet.”
He grows the fish in the industrial park in Appalachia, where he grows millions of the fish. These massive industrial-scale fish farms are becoming increasingly popular, with aquaculture also witnessing significant increases in production worldwide in recent years.
There are many reasons as to why these industrial-scale farms are becoming more popular. These include, population growth, increased incomes and an increase in populations switching to healthier alternatives to food. It is expected that this demand will increase by over 35% within the next 20 years.
Global aquaculture experts have warned that with global catches of wild fish now stagnant, that all future seafood will be farmed.
“There is no way we are going to get all of the protein we need out of wild fish,” said food policy expert at Stanford University, Rosamond Naylor.
“But people are very wary that we’re going to create another feedlot industry in the ocean. So they want it to be right from the start.” she added.
Experimental farms solve one problem;
The one problem associated with these farms, the excessive waste excretions by a large number of fish.
One farm has begun using natural water filters, to help get rid waters of this fish waste. The farm, located off Canada’s Vancouver Island, has begun using Japanese scallops to rid the water of fish waste. This could help industrial size farms, where algal bloom has become a problem due to high excretion rates.
This is currently a major problem in Asia, where 90% of fish farmed areas are subject to significant aquacultural pollution. To keep fish alive, farmers had been resorting to using antibiotics and pesticides that are banned in the US and Europe.
These industrial farms also have a better success rate in fighting disease. This compares to recent struggles by salmon farmers, with parasites plaguing stocks in Europe. Scottish fish farmers lost almost 10% of their stock in 2012.
How did Bill stop disease spreading:
His solution to this age-old problem, raising fish in tanks on land and not in pens kept in the sea or lakes.
“Net pens are a total goat rodeo,” said Bill Martin,
“You’ve got sea lice, disease, escapement, and death. You compare that with a 100 percent controlled environment, possibly as close to zero impact on the oceans as we can get. If we don’t leave the oceans alone, Mother Nature is going to kick our butts big-time.” he added.
There are downfalls to the system, with the cost of running the facility is not cheap. To keep the fish alive, Bill needs to power a water-treatment system, which could work for a small town. The power for this, comes from electricity power obtained from coal.
About 85% of the water in his tanks has to be recirculated, while the rest goes to a local sewage treatment plant. Solid waste also has to be disposed at the landfill. To replace lost water, half a million gallons of water must be sourced from an underground aquifer. Martin hopes to soon recirculate 99% of the water as well as producing his own low-carbon form of electricity.
These targets set by Bill are a few years away as of yet, though once he has solved them, industrial scale fish farming will be the way of the future.