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EU funded project still believes in large scale aquaponic productionGrowing a commercial vegetable crop in a greenhouse like you are used to, and combine this with the production of fish. A few growers have tried it before, but apart from some smaller enterprises, large scale adaptation of this has never been achieved. The EU-funded project INAPRO gives it another try and aims to overcome the limitations of large scale aquaponic production by innovating and improving aquaponics. Their system claims to optimize aquaponics through the integration of cutting edge technologies and by providing a modular solution for the management of water, energy and nutrients. The final goal of the project is the commercialisation of an innovative model-based aquaponic system.
The main innovation provided by INAPRO is the double recirculation aquaponic system (DRAPS) for water, consisting of a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) for the fish section and a recirculating hydroponic system for the plants section. These two systems run independently and are linked only through a one-way valve. In the INAPRO system, the wastewater from the aquaculture sector is used as fertiliser for the hydroponically grown crops and then, thanks to a cooling trap system, the evapo-transpirated water is captured from the horticulture sector and reinserted into the aquaculture one. This system allows to establish and maintain optimal conditions in both parts, avoiding negative interactions between the fish and the plants.
Thanks to this innovation, the INAPRO system allows the production of fish and vegetables with almost no external water input. Indeed, INAPRO needs a daily water input representing only 1-3% of the total amount of water circulating in the system. INAPRO has been developed to be scalable to greenhouses of different dimensions (from large scale agricultural facilities to smaller urban farming solutions) and under different climate conditions. The highly efficient reuse of water makes this system the perfect solution to produce food in rural areas with water scarcity issues. Moreover, depending on where the greenhouse is located, the system can use different sources of water (including rainwater) and can be powered by different sources of renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass) cutting both costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
INAPRO allows the production of local, healthy and sustainable food that is free from contaminants and chemical residues. In fact, INAPRO does not require fish drugs and antibiotics and employs only a minimal amount of fertilisers. Since the food is produced in a closed system, no pollution is dispersed in the surrounding environment avoiding any negative impact on soil and groundwater.
As INAPRO products can be grown anywhere, this system represents a local and sustainable solution to the increasing demand for seafood products without putting additional burden on already overexploited fish stocks. Instead it cuts the emissions and costs for transport and avoid the negative environmental impacts of conventional fish farms.
The INAPRO system is adaptable to installations of different sizes and locations. Currently INAPRO has a test facility in Abtshagen (Germany), which is already running and producing tilapia and tomatoes. By spring 2016, two other demonstration sites will be built in Europe, one in Waren (Germany) and the other in Murcia (Spain). The demonstration sites are expected to produce around 6t of tilapia and 12t of tomatoes per year. To ease the shift from conventional aquaculture and horticulture to aquaponics, the INAPRO system allows farmers to calculate their revenues whilst taking into consideration all production-related costs.
For more information:
Consultant in EU Affairs
Publication date: 2/4/2016
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