Aquaponics brought to Grahamstown

Sweet Waters Aquaponics, a 6-month-old farm based on an aquaponics system, has recently started distributing fresh organic vegetables to Grahamstown. The vegetables include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. “Aquaponics farming is the future,” Investor Andrew de Jager told The Oppidan Press. “It is economically viable and environmentally sustainable”.

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in a water solvent rather than soil) that grows fish and plants together in an integrated system. Water is pumped from the fish tanks into the grow beds, where the vegetables are grown. The water coming from the fish tanks are rich with nutrients and fish waste. Nitrifying bacteria converts the fish waste into these nutrients that are then extracted by the plants and used to grow. In return, the plants filter and purify the water that is sent back to the fish. Thus, aquaponics is a closed-circuit ecosystem, sustainably growing fish and plants.

What makes aquaponics different is that it’s an environmentally responsible system that does not use synthetic chemicals in the form of pesticides or fertilisers. The natural interaction between the fish and the plants creates chemical-free vegetables. Not only is this interaction healthier for the fish and plants, but the organic vegetables are healthier for people to consume.

Aquaponics also saves water as it uses only 10% of the water that soil-based farming uses, and even less water than hydroponics or recirculating aquaculture. The water can be reused indefinitely as it circulates between the fish and plants and will only need to be topped-up when it is lost through transpiration from the plants and evaporation.

“It’s the future of the environment,” de Jager repeats as he gazes over the beautiful greenery surrounding him. Investor and Production Manager Shannon Booth hopes to one day distribute their plants nationally. In the meantime, they plan to start providing vegetables for the USKAR.  

“The veg is organic and water efficient at the same price as other products of a lower quality”, says Samantha Kruger, an USKAR student who accompanied The Oppidan Press to the farm. “The staff were really friendly with the hope that people will choose more environmentally friendly products”. Sweet Water Aquaponics vegetables can be found and bought at Kareiga game reserve, House Planner, Voila restaurant and Pick n Pay.

By growing fish and plants together, Aquaponics is a very efficient way of growing vegetables.

Words by Courtenay Webster

Images by Joseph Baker