A SUSTAINABLE WAY TO FARM AND EAT MORE FISH!
Brooke Kobetz, RDN, LDN Last fall I had the pleasure of attending the FNCE nutrition conference in Chicago. I was able to sit in on presentations given by the top entrepreneurs and scientists in the field of nutrition. Debi Zvi, MS, RDN, Jaime Schwartz, MS, RD, and Jason Green gave one of the most interesting presentations at the conference. Their work with Eden Works, a company that specializes in aquaponics was eye-opening. As someone who loves, but is concerned with mercury and other heavy metals found in most commercial fish, I never questioned that there might be a better way to farm our fish. The fact is that modern fishing practices are not sustainable. Many fish populations are decimated due to pollution and the over fishing of our oceans. Entire species are disappearing. What if there was a way to responsibly farm and raise fish for consumption? Aquaponics is an interesting new subset of aquaculture that may solve the problem. Not only is it sustainable, but also allows for growth of fresh produce, farmed when nutrients are at their peak. Here’s how it works: fish produce nitrogenous waste that plants can feed on, then the plants filter the water that returns to the fish. The systems are very carefully maintained in large tanks in greenhouses. The soil for the plants is made up of a combination of nutrient-rich soils that use a very specific, complete microbiome which breaks down fish waste, a carbon based medium, and subsurface irrigation. All the parts work together to create the perfect ecosystem. With this system, safe, local protein is produced with no runoff, all waste is recycled, water waste is reduced by 90%, 8
and fish can be farmed continuously because of the controlled greenhouse environment. There are no antibiotics, hormones, GMOS, or pesticides used. The produce and fish are farmed at their nutritional peaks. Why don’t we see more of the systems? The short answer is that the infrastructure is incredibly difficult to design, and top engineers are needed to maintain the ecosystem. Also, farmers and workers with experience and technical expertise are needed which can prove costly for start-up operations. As we move into the future of food, more consumers are demanding food free of processing, pesticides, and antibiotics. Sustainable options that are safe for consumption need to be a high priority for manufacturers and farmers. Fish are a great source of lean protein and many contain omega 3’s, an essential fatty acid that has been linked to lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation. Providing clean fish, along with the organic vegetables, is a step in the right direction towards better health and environment. Acadiana, with our love for supporting local farmers and businesses would be a perfect place for a start-up aquaponic operation. Plus, fish is a staple of our local cuisine. I would love to see a local aquaponic business complete with an attached restaurant full of fresh, healthy and delicious eats to promote nutrition and sustainability in our small city. We need to move towards the future of food, so we don’t get left behind.
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