School pioneers commercial aquaculture in Bermuda
Commercial aquaculture could be a turning point in diversifying Bermuda’s economy. That is the hope of Environment Minister Trevor Moniz.
He spoke of the possibilities after the Island’s first aquaculture licence was awarded to Sandys Secondary Middle School yesterday.
“Aquaculture, also known as ‘aquafarming’, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. It involves cultivating freshwater and/or saltwater organisms under controlled conditions,” said Mr Moniz.
“If a Bermuda aquaculture sector could successfully displace a large enough percentage of imported fresh and frozen tilapia and other fish species, by growing them locally at a competitive rate, it could grow to represent savings of foreign exchange while also contributing to business and job opportunities and new career options.”
Aquaculture could also “play an important role in our food security portfolio,” said the Minister.
“It is my sincere hope that this aquaculture project will produce the first generation of home-grown fish farmer-entrepreneurs.
“Today we are breaking new ground for the future and preparing our people to become exposed to this exciting new technology at an early age. A few may even decide that this is what they would like to do as a career on a much larger scale.”
The school project, initiated by science teacher Caesare Filiché, will begin with cultivating tilapia, which are expected to grow to market size in about six months.
“Part of the advantage of farming tilapia was that they can grow on a vegetarian diet,” said Mr Moniz.
“Tilapia is a hardy fish species and ideal for students learning to manage and grow fish to a marketable size. The licence for this particular project is based on using male fish. This will not only make the husbandry easier to manage but will also minimise risk of invasion of local ponds in the very unlikely event of an escapement of multiple fish into the same pond.”
The production system is self-contained and has a capacity of 900 gallons of recirculating water. As water circulates between two, six-foot diameter circular tanks, positioned side-by-side, it is filtered in two stages to remove solids and dissolved gases. The tank water is oxygenated using compressed air.
“This small pilot-scale system will be incorporated as an enrichment initiative to the science curriculum. But many other learning activities can be built around an aquaculture system like this one: mathematics, language, entrepreneurship and more,” added Mr Moniz.
A second phase of the project will link it to a ‘hydroponics’ system that the school plans to install. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil where the roots are bathed in nutrient-containing water. Therefore, the present tank system has been designed to eventually operate as an aquaponics system, where edible fish and plants are produced together.
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