Saturday, 13 December 2014

Ten years ago I read about the new, ‘water chicken’ Tilapia.
Did extensive research into commercially farming this new wonder food.
We even got as far as looking at land in southern Spain. At the time the EU were offering up to 50% retrospective grants. 
And then as they say life intervened.
Fast forward ten years. I saw an ad on E bay for a fish plant system.
Small second hand system, indoors for temperature control. Tilapia like to be warm. Use lights for plant growth, probably herbs, should be fun.
So I started to do some more research. Bring my knowledge up to date.
On an Australian website I watched a video about a guy growing lettuce.
His main point was that the vegetable crop was the cash crop.The fish were the engine room and a useful by product.
It was a, ‘light bulb ‘ moment. Think veg!
His other points were about closeness to market. He had no need to convert me on this. One of the reasons we had looked at southern Spain is the Spanish people love their fish.
So KISS. What’s the easiest plant to grow in water; watercress. What fish? Move outdoors, no heating cost, trout.
Is there a market for watercress? Yes, I believe there is a local niche market for fresh,very high quality produce. 
The fish plant wouldn’t be big enough.
Again on an Australian website I came across IBC. International Bulk Carriers. Never heard of them before but I could see immediately what could be done with a 1000 ltr container. Back to E bay. I bought two. I l also  bought lots of the other paraphernalia required, pump, grow media, my choice was clay pellets, PH test meter etc.

An IBC is a one meter cube plastic box in a metal cage. You cut it roughly 1/4 3/4. The base is the fish tank. The reversed top filled with media is the grow bed.

 Chance led me to Bibury Trout Farm near Cirencester. What a beautiful place! The Fishery Manager went out of his way to be helpful.They were double bagged in plastic with a small amount of water and oxygen injected into the bags. Into a cold box for the journey home.
At home I floated the bags on my FT and then after a while gradually added water from my system until they swam free.

There is a lot written about the nitrogen cycle. You need to understand it.
To one of the junior fishcakes I explained that friendly bacteria in the grow bed eat the fish poo! His face went from delight to disgust in about one milli second. They then pass on Nitrites to other friendly bacteria who produce Nitrates. The plants like this and so the cycle continues.
So thats where I am. Growing bacteria. Once this single system is stable and up and running then I can add more grow bed area and possibly another FT.
I made up another  acronym, ‘SMELL”
Start (small); modify;enjoy; learn and listen.
Unless it all goes wrong then it might STINK.

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