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The Herald

How trout waste could help feed the world without chemicals

By David Leask @leaskyHTChief Reporter, The Herald

SRUC Dominic Gammon & Laie Kennedy, The Aquaponics Garden Ltd in their site at Elmwood College, Fife.

IT might not sound mouthwatering. Yet fish poo just might be the secret ingredient that helps feed the world.

Scientists are increasingly looking at using the waste of species like trout to fertilise crops. And not in fields or even the sea - but in old factories and warehouses near you.

Welcome to the world of aquaponics, one of the new technologies turning urban farming in to a reality.

This is where ‘farmers’ - under the shelter of a roof - link a pool filled with pooping fish to trays of crops under artificial lights.

Now a first commercial venture has been set up to experiment with the technology in Fife.

The Aquaponics Garden Ltd. will work with Scotland’s Rural College(SRUC) to build a pilot farm on the edge of Cupar.

The team behind the firm, Dominic Gammon and Leia Kennedy, will try different food and non-food crops, including, it is thought, salads and herbs. Such produce, especially out of season, is often imported. That means so called “food miles”, when dinner comes by plane from the other side of the world and is far from as fresh as consumers want.

Mr Gammon and Ms Kennedy said: “We want to significantly reduce the environmental footprint of food production, as well as improve food security by bringing sustainable farming technology that overcomes seasonality to towns and cities as well as remote locations.

“We are building a space that encourages research into sustainable aquaponics technology and we are excited to collaborate with other local start-ups and researchers on this mission.

“We are only a year into our journey, but we are excited to be working with SRUC to develop a working prototype that will make a positive impact on the Scottish economy.”

Aquaponics is growing globally amid increasing concern about the climate emergency.

Farming is a major contributor to greenhouse gases causing the planet to heat up. Aquaponics is much more efficient.

By harnessing naturally occurring bacteria, the system converts fish waste into nutrients for the plants. This recirculating ecosystem means up to 95% less water is used and no need to use chemical fertilisers.

The Aquaponics Garden is the first ‘spin-in company’ to join the SRUC Incubator programme. The Incubator programme helps new businesses take their first steps towards testable products and services and is part of SRUC’s innovation hub.

As well as space to develop their system, SRUC is providing The Aquaponics Garden with access to other SRUC researchers and business mentoring services.

Teresa Shutter, Head of SRUC’s Innovation Hub, said, “The Aquaponics Garden shares our values to develop new ideas that will disrupt the agriculture sector and they are a great fit for our first ‘spin-in’ company.

“We are on a journey to become a 21st century rural enterprise university and as part of this vision we are looking to work with many more start-ups like The Aquaponics Garden.”

There are a number of schemes looking to grow urban farming in Scotland, including planting food on gap sites or in abandoned industrial buildings or warehouses. Market gardening and orchards was once a major industry across the Central Belt.

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