My solution is to establish an aquaponics farm for food production and consultancy in Zimbabwe. Besides growing fish and vegetables under aquaponics system, I will offer consultancy servics and equipment to potential small holder farmers. Aquaponics entails a holistic approach of growing plants and farming fish simultaneously whereby waste from the fish supplies nutrients to the plants, which in turn purify the water. In comparison to the conventional methods of farming, the aquaponics system is more efficient as it reduces the maturation time of plants by over 30%. Moreover, the crops grown within the system are organic, pest resistant and do not require weeding. Aquaponics is suitable in low rainfall areas with poor soils and the system does not require fertilizers for plants. Aquaponics is affordable and it increases productivity with contributing to environmental degradation. The project will consist of eight separate units, each comprised of a tank for the fish, gravel grow beds and cement tanks called deep wells. The water from the fish tank is pumped into grow beds (a plastic tank holding the growing media - in this case 0,75 inch gravel stones which sustain the plants) and then some of the water is returned to the tanks while some goes into deep wells. The deep wells have perforated float trays which support more plants. The system is highly efficient with an estimated loss of water mainly due to evaporation.
Aquaponics farming is a fairly new concept in Zimbabwe. This initiative is innovative as vegetables are planted in gravel not soil, receiving rich nutrients from fish waste. Because of this vegetables can be planted close together than in traditional farming which is highly practiced in Zimbabwe thereby resulting in high yields. Filtered water is channeled back to fish tanks, saving more than 90% of water. Aquaponics can grow 10 times the volume of produce per square feet of conventional farming using 90% less water! Producing fish at the same time! The results are astounding; the highest quality produce grown with sustainabily less resources. Unlike farmers in conventional farming, aquaponics is totally organic and chemical free. We can't use pesticides, herbicides or any other agro-chemical because it can kill fish. We can't use antibiotics or any chemical for fish because it can kill plants. The solution is unique within the farming industry because of sustainability. Aquaponics is suitable where is suitable where water is scarce, land is scarce, soils are poor and where farmers do not have enough money to buy agro-chemicals and fertilizers. Energy to drive the water pump can be generated using solar panels thus saving electricity. The system is cost effective and holistic in nature. In the wake of El Nino weather conditions, aquaponics is the panacea. Aquaponics is an excellent way of producing protein foods such as fish and vegetables in impoverished and low rainfall areas to support food security.
My drive to venture into aquaponics farming and offering related extension services was triggered by the penchant to address problems faced by people in Zimbabwe especially the rural populace. Local farmers only grow seasonal crops, yet the demand for such prevails all year round. This creates disequilibrium in the market for farm produce. Rampant case of goiter (sickness due to lack of iodine) is been recorded in local clinics in recent times due to the scarcity of the main source of iodine, fish in most homes. The aquaponics farm will create jobs for the teeming population and vulnerable women, contribute increase in production of organic fish and organic vegetables to meet high demand hence exorcise current disequilibrium in the market for organic farm products.
Besides being affordable and productive, aquaponics is an innovation which is environmental friendly. It addresses important United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.It uses 90% less water compared to traditional farming, addressing United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.In due consideration of the environment, inorganic fertilizers and all agro-chemicals are not used thus reducing ecological footprint, addressing United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13. Achieving Goal 12 and 13 requires sustainable consumption, production and sustainable business practices.
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