Aquaponic Conference: Building a Community

Aquaponic ConferenceThe British Aquaponic Association (BAQUA) held its first Aquaponic Conference on the 29th January 2013 in Coventry, at the head office of HydroGarden – our main sponsor.

Morning Session: Introduction and Presentations

The day began with an introduction from BAQUA, including a description of our aims, strategy, and theme of our conference: Building a community. This was followed by three interesting and informative presentations given by three speakers from different backgrounds: Maria, Keith, and Kevin. The speakers, kindly gave up their time to share some important messages with us. A summary of these are presented below:

Presentation 1: Dr Maria Veludo

Speaking at BAQUA' s conference

 Dr Veludo a specialist in supply chain management and business sustainability delivered a talk entitled: Aquaponics: Opportunities, challenges and the role of BAQUA.

The take home messages from Maria’s talk included:

  • An overview of opportunities in aquaponics: The versatility of aquaponics means that it can be applied in a variety of contexts and ways.
  • A cautionary note: The aquaponic community must learn from projects that have failed in the past to ensure new projects are sustainable.
  • A recommendation: The aquaponic community must build business skills and experience into each aquaponic project, in addition to technical expertise.

Download Maria’s presentation by clicking here


Presentation 2: Keith Jeffery

Keith Jeffery
Keith works for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS). The title of his talk was: Cefas, the Role of the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) & its role in the regulation of an Aquaponics business

 The take home messages from Keith’s talk included:

  • Overview of CEFAS’s work: Regulation, Assessment, Aquatic Health and Governance
  • Overview of the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI): The FHI is the authority for diagnosis and control of notifiable fish and shellfish diseases in England & Wales
  • How Aquaponics is regulated by the FHI: Aquaponic systems may need to be inspected before being authorised and registered to rear fish. To find out if this applies to you go to: www.defra.gov.uk/aahm/forms/forms-list/

Download Keith’s presentation by clicking here

Presentation 3: Kevin Frediani

Kevin Frediani

Kevin is the Curator of Plants and Gardens at Paignton Zoo, where he has pioneered a vertical aquaponic system. Kevin views aquaponics as an approach to solving problems as part of an overall system. The title of his talk was: Defining sustainable urban agriculture – the case for aquaponics in a time of global change.

The take home messages from Keven’s talk included:

  • Aquaponic grow tips: Follow the seasonsand don’t carry out monoculture.
  • A case for aquaponics: Fish are the most efficient source of protein due to their excellent food conversion ratio (amount of feed required to grow a kg of protein)
  • The importance of transparency: Sharing knowledgeis an essential part of the aquaponic community

Download Kevin’s presentation by clicking here

Conference Guests

 

Afternoon Session: Interactive Workshop and Conclusion

HydroGarden TourAfter a delicious lunch, and tours of the aquaponic units – both provided generously by HydroGarden – BAQUA led an interactive afternoon workshop. The main aim of the workshop was for all conference attendees to split-up into groups of five. Each group pretended it was a community in the UK, and were provided with a given scenario to help define their community in terms of its geography, socio-economic status, size etc. Each group was then given forty-five minutes to discuss and answer the following question in relation to their unique community scenario: ‘How could community groups derive income streams from aquaponics allowing them to create a sustainable community project?’ Afterwards one person from each group presented their group’s proposed income generating solutions to the whole audience.

Aquaponic WorkshopThe workshop was a great success. It spurred some lively discussions, great team-work and many creative ideas. A small selection of each group’s ideas’ are presented below:

Community 1:
A community of twenty individuals based in Cornwall – with access to a lake and half-an-acre –decided to collect food-waste from take-away restaurants in neighbouring towns. They planned to use this food waste to feed a wormery, which would supply them with a source of income through the sale of vermicompost, and fishing-bait – and later they would use the worms for their aquaponic unit. This would provide the start-up capital needed for their community aquaponic venture. The aquaponic system would grow specialist vegetables (which they would sell to take-away restaurants) and rear trout fingerlings (to stock the lake). They would then create an income from fishermen who used the lake for recreational trout fishing.

Community 2:
A London-based community in a high-crime area – who had just been awarded a £2000 grant by the council to start an aquaponic community project –decided to rent two 300m² allotmentswhich had recently become available. They planned to help pay for this rent by involving ex-offenders in the scheme and building their aquaponic systems using hydroponic equipment confiscated by the police. Other income generating ideas included a supper club, green gym and after-school club.

Workshop Community 3:
A tiny community group of four people based in rural Gloucester were not keen to put all their eggs in one basket. They decided to create two money-making strategies, the choice of which depended on their eligibility for a grant. They also brainstormed four possible money-making options for growing their produce: Grow to Train, Grow to Prepare, Grow to Sell and Grow to Dividend. One of their favourite ideas was to supply their village fish & chips shop with sustainable fish and vegetables.

Community 4:
A Manchester-based community were lent a 600m² car park by the council. They could also use a patch of grass adjacent to the car park, provided they didn’t erect anything on it. The group planned to apply for a £10,000 grant to set up an aquaponic system and pay a manager to run it. They planned to compost the local printing firm’s shredded waste paper; create allotments on the grass area; and support disadvantaged people by either 1) getting paid to start support groups or 2) creating a Co-Op. Income would be derived from selling vegetables, seedlings, beeswax products and worms for fish bait.

Community 5:
A community based in high-density Glasgow decided to rent the top floor (10,000²ft room with lots of natural light) of a disused warehouse in a rundown area to start an aquaponics system. The group presumed that they would be eligible for a £10,000 grant from an organisation like Awards for All – which would cover the cost of running their unit for the first year. They decided to register as a charity to receive the associated benefits of this type of organisation. Due to the high start-up costs the group decided on a modular aquaponic (IBC) system that could increase in size as time went on.  Income could then be derived from a vegetable-box scheme; selling cold-water fish species; creating a classroom to involve local schools; and starting a sponsorship scheme – so that individuals, schools or organisations could sponsor an individual IBC system.

A full description of the scenarios and complete list of ideas brainstormed by each group will be shared with readers in BAQUA’s first newsletter (available in late February).

Conclusion
The feedback we received said that our conference was fun, informative, worthwhile and a good opportunity to link people together. However, we also received suggestions on how we could do better in the future (e.g. by providing more specialist talks). We will endeavour to work on this feedback to ensure our next conference is bigger and better!

Finally, BAQUA would like to say a huge thank you to HydroGarden, Kevin, Keith, Maria and to all of our guests who took the time and effort to attend our event – thank you!