Friday, April 24, 2009

Recirculating Aquaculture

I received a very nice email from Christina at Food and Water Watch responding to my post, "Fish Farms Are Floating CAFOs". She said that their organization "advocates for recirculating onland based systems."

I'd never heard of these systems, so I Googled them. Here's a description from researchers at Virginia Tech:
"Recirculating aquaculture refers to a method of growing fish at high densities under controlled conditions in indoor tanks. This approach to fish production minimizes the amount of water and land needed, and greatly expands the opportunities to grow fish in geographic areas that are normally unsuitable locations for seafood harvesting."
- Virginia Tech, Recirculating Aquaculture Technology Is Warding Off Future Seafood Shortages (pdf), 2007
Some photos:

Fish farming sure has gone high-tech.
Photos: Left from Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Queensland, Australia.
Right from Process Aquatics International, Downingtown, PA


Bix said...

Well, I understand this on an intellectual level, but on a visceral level, ugh.

Anonymous said...

Hm, certainly doesn't take me back to those lazy summer days spent perched on a rock above an Ozark stream with a little throw line threaded through my eight-year-old fingers, red and white bobber breaking the water's surface while my eyes drank in the pages of a novel.

But then, not so much does these days...

Angela and Melinda said...

Came across an article about a Pew Foundation-funded study on links b/tw CAFOS (terrestrial rather than piscine) and public health.

Bix said...

Just started reading it, good article, Melinda.

Bix said...

Nice, Esmaa.

When I was young, having an aquarium was popular. (Is it anymore?) You sprinkled fish food, pellets or flakes, on the top of the water and watched the fish rise up and snatch them. (It took all Saturday morning to clean!) I never imagined that this would be anything like how we raise fish for consumption.

Matt said...

This is bad but aquaculture does not need to be all bad. Permaculturists have good examples of how to incorporate aquaculture into a complete system

Anonymous said...

We raised Oscars in tanks way back in the early 70s. No idea if fish tanks are popular these days, though.

Matt, great link thanks for sharing it.

Bix said...

As much as I love seeing how responsibly fish can be raised (for food), or any livestock for that matter, I always return to the question of ... How do you scale this up? How do you feed hundreds of families, tens of thousands, millions, of urban dwellers? How do you bring this technology to people who live on a few dollars a day? I don't know.

And when you scale it up, doesn't that just become the new Big Ag? The new industrial food production?

Matt said...


Good questions. I know permaculturists struggle with these ideas. Some permaculturists say outright that we are overpopulated and we should have a "controlled descent" in population. If this were to happen, then the theory goes that we'd have enough land.

Permaculture is actually more efficient in terms of food production per acre, so with about 400 million acres of arable land, we could easily feed 300 million people with smaller farms. Add in the land people devote to grass and we could grow enormous amounts of food. I don't think the problem is the food supply, it's the distribution. We could feed the world six times over but we all fight too much.

Christina said...

Thanks so much for posting about this!

I think what's great about these systems is that they can be scaled at a variety of levels. On Maui in Hawaii there's a family with a RAS system in their backyard which they use to feed their family.

There are a lot of people to feed on this planet - but that doesn't mean that our food sources have to be controlled by a handful of people, done on a massive scale - which seems to be how big ag works. What we could do is have many of these systems, located closer to the community that they need to feed. That would both increase local food security and create jobs.

Thanks again!

Angela and Melinda said...

Re feeding fish and meat to the whole world, not every single person wants to eat fish, poultry & meat, not even in poor countries. And for those who do, there's a good example of helping poverty-stricken areas obtain dairy & poultry/meat in the efforts of Heifer International. That's a true example of spreading the wealth.