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    December 16

  • 09:43 AM

HOMEGROWN: Aquaponics new way of gardening

by SUZANNE GRIFFITH,

Added 24 June 2010

I have been thinking a lot lately how one might define success in the arena of kitchen gardening, or what I prefer to call small-scale, self-sustaining agriculture.  I am certain there are those among us in Barbados who can proudly boast of not having bought a bag of lettuce, a hand of bananas, a bunch of parsley, or a carton of cherry tomatoes in the recent past. Let’s face it, though. Is it really possible to do all this while at the same time holding down a job, raising a family, and squeezing out some precious time for yourself? You didn’t hear it from me but there is a quietly growing movement afoot in Barbados that not only promises success in the kitchen garden, but also gives you back precious time and effort, making sustained home-based cultivation a viable pursuit.Just about two years ago, I was asked to make a presentation to the Valley Nutrition and Activities Group at the Valley Resource Centre in St George. Following the presentation, a woman approached me and said that her grandson was cultivating plants and fish, together, in her backyard. She encouraged me to get in contact with him; time passed and I never managed to make the call. A few months later I stumbled upon an exhibit at Agrofest 2008 featuring the agricultural technique known as aquaponics and quickly realised that the exhibitor and developer of the system was the same woman’s grandson, Damian Hinkson.For the uninitiated, aquaponics is the synthesis of two types of farming: aqua-culture or fish farming, and hydro-ponics or soilless farming, hence the term aquaponics. Aquaculture is typically characterised by the high-density cultivation of a particular species of fish. Hydroponics is characterised by the soilless cultivation of agricultural crops. Aquaponics, quite simply, is the merging of the two.The waste water generated by high-density fish farming is pumped through a soilless medium containing agricultural crops; the waste water provides necessary nitrogen-rich nutrients to the crops and is returned via gravity flow to the fish tanks. The fish have clean water and the crops have the nutrients they require for optimal growth and yield.In a little more than a month Damian and his group, the Bairds Village Aquaponic Association, with the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, will launch a commercial-scale aquaponic facility right here in Barbados. The facility is not only aimed at spreading the word about aquaponics, but also education and community building. I am fortunate enough to have been asked to be a part of Damian’s group. Look for upcoming instalments of this column chronicling their efforts, and outlining the ways in which aquaponics might forever alter the way you garden for the better. • homegrownbarbados@gmail.com

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