After several years of planning, government officials, members of Farmers in Action and Fresh Ministries broke ground on a plot of land in Estate Bethlehem’s coconut grove for an agribusiness center for aquaponic farming.
The project began seven years ago when Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Sen. Allison DeGazon met Rev. Robert V. Lee III of Fresh Ministries. Several members of Lee’s staff had aquaponics training at the University of the Virgin Islands, and the three officials began planning for a new aquaculture system for St. Croix. Lee secured a $2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and Bryan and DeGazon worked to find a suitable location.
Aquaculture is farming animals such as fish, crayfish, prawns or even snails, fish, crayfish or prawns normally found in the sea, and hydroponics is cultivating plants directly in liquid (water and nutrients in solution) rather than soil. In an aquaponic system, both seagoing creatures – typically tilapia – and plants can be grown together in one hydroponic system, with the water from the fish being circulated through a hydroponic plant system that uses the fish waste matter to fertilize the plants. The cleaned water is then recirculated back to the fish.
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