Our Aquaponics Farm
How Controlled Environment Aquaponics (CEA) can restore food sovereignty to the island of Puerto Rico
Controlled Environment Aquaponics or CEA is a form of agriculture, the entire premise of which is based upon the mutually beneficial relationship between plants and animals, more specifically fish. It is essentially the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system. We know, it sounds cliché but our plans were quite a bit more ambitious than a retirement spent on the beach with chilled piña coladas in hand.
How CEA Aquaponics Works
At Fusion Farms, the fish, tilapia, are raised in large subterranean ponds, where they are overseen by Fusion Farms’ aquaculture experts and tended to by our carefully trained staff. The water in the tank accumulates fish waste, which, when broken down by bacteria, creates a potent natural fertilizer for plants. This water is continuously flushed out of the fish tanks and through the complex network of deep-water rafts and racks in Fusion Farms’ grow facility. The nutrient-rich water from raising fish provides a natural fertilizer for the plants and the plants help to purify the water for the fish.
This all takes place within a closed system or “controlled environment,” in which temperature, humidity, and other important variables for agriculture can be carefully managed. The aim of this control is to recreate an outdoor environment that is super conducive to fast and healthy plant growth and yet is protected from bad weather, molds, pests, disease, and harmful pathogens, without the need for chemical interference, like pesticides. Without the interruption of nighttime, overcast days, and seasons influencing the grow cycle, we can essentially grow food 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and deliver seed-to-harvest produce in as little as 21 days!
The Benefits of Aquaponics
This harmonious relationship between plant and fish creates an exceptionally sustainable and productive agricultural ecosystem that:
- Requires little water and other resources, since the water is continuously recycled and the fish fertilize the plants (aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional farming).
- Can run year-round and in any location on the planet, since it takes place indoors and in an environment where the temperature and humidity can be controlled.
- Provides a continuous and reliable source of fresh, nutritious food fish and a great variety of leafy greens, herbs, vegetables, and fruits for consumption.
- Can cater to the needs of an entire family, community, village, hospital, or institution from one relatively small-scale operation.
- Provides a cheaper and much healthier, more delicious alternative to food that has to be imported, as is currently the case in Puerto Rico.
- Provides food that is free from herbicides, pesticides, and hormones. The reason for this is simple: fish are sensitive to their environments and cannot tolerate harmful chemicals. If these were introduced into an aquaponics system, the fish would likely die.
- Provides food with a lower risk of contamination or pest infestation, since it is grown and harvested in a closed, controlled environment.
Controlled Environment Aquaponics are also useful for education in schools and universities. With each link in the food chain easy to see and examine, students can learn about the biological relationships between the fish and the plants and take the field of aquaponics further through scientific enquiry.
How Aquaponics Farms can Feed Communities
In countries, cities, and communities that don’t have an established agricultural sector and, consequently, rely on imported food to feed their citizens, such as Puerto Rico, Controlled Environment Aquaponics can offer a sustainable source of healthy, nutritious food. Being locally grown, this produce is also typically more affordable than imported food products and can be made reliably available. In places where the climate is harsh or prone to frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes, Controlled Environment Aquaponics, which can be built in hurricane protected buildings, can provide a lasting, reliable solution to food shortages.
Building and managing such operations can also be a good source of jobs for communities who want to take the reins of their food production, as they should and as Fusion Farms encourages them to.
The Way of the Future
Controlled Environment Aquaponics or CEA truly optimizes the use of resources, such as water, energy, space, capital, and labor, to grow just about any commercially viable crop and food fish, making it a sustainable farming solution for any community in the world. Here in Puerto Rico, the foundering economy, infrastructure, power grid, and agriculture make it clear, now more than ever, after Hurricane Maria and the exploding COVID-19 pandemic, that the island needs to establish its food sovereignty, and Fusion Farms is one such venture that seeks to employ Controlled Environment Aquaponics to empower the island to feed itself.