Because set up costs are substantial and specialised knowledge in growing both fish and plants is a must, aquaponics has yet to take off in a meaningful way in Brunei. So Syazwan Hj Suni and his father were in for an even bigger surprise when they received notice last week that they were one of 21 international businesses shortlisted by Shell Global for the LiveWIRE Top Ten Innovators Awards.
“To be recognized alone is a huge achievement for us,” said Syazwan. “We’ve spent countless hours, experimenting, learning, trying to make these systems work,” added his father. “When we started in 2011 winning awards wasn’t on our minds. But now are gaining the confidence of being able to set up a commercial aquaponics farm.”
Syazwan’s late brother, who worked for the Department of Fisheries, was the first to kickstart the family’s exposure to growing produce. He kept a small aquaculture operation in their backyard farming prawns and freshwater fish like tilapia.
The fish were reared in 1,500 litre tanks but their wastewater, which collects at the bottom, had to be discharged daily, and new water pumped in.
Syazwan, who then had just graduated with a degree in tourism management from Curtin University in Australia, decided to pass time by researching uses for the fish wastewater.
“The amount of water going to waste was huge, about 10% to 20% (of the total tank) daily,” said the 30-year-old, who works full-time at the Brunei International Air Cargo Centre. “Eventually, I found that the water could be used to grow vegetables, and borrowed one of the fish tanks and paired it with a grow bed to plant cherry tomatoes.”