Get Involved!

wegrow
Our brilliant sustainable food project campaign has now launched on Kickstarter.

The not-for-profit campaign aims to help people to grow sustainable food all year using Aquaponics.We want to raise awareness and get as many people as possible using our open source ‘WaterElf’ electronics kit to share knowledge and best practice.

Lots of people are behind us already, but we need more! Kickstarter is all-or-nothing, so we need to reach our funding target to continue our work.
The range of rewards for getting involved include:
  • A recipe for an aquaponics system
  • A funky fishy wegrow T-shirt
  • Aquaponics courses at TV presenter Kate Humble’s amazing aquaponics greenhouse
  • Aquaponics kits to grow your own food at anything from tabletop to greenhouse size
So even if you don’t want to grow food yourself, you could support us in trying to make the way we live just that little bit better for as little as £10.

You can read more about the project and find out how you can support it here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hamishcunningham/wegrow-waterelf-grow-clean-food-fast

We think this is a really good project. If you agree, and wouldn’t mind helping us to reach our funding target by spreading the word, that would be wonderful.

Many thanks from the WeGrow team!

The Humble by Nature Greenhouse

We are just back from a fantastic couple of days with the team at Humble by Nature – lovely aquaponics set up with a side order of Black Solider Flies.  After doing a bit of filming we installed a wifi enabled WaterElf monitoring system in the greenhouse.  The only downside was the sound of the cockerels competing for attention outside our tents at 6am each morning, but it was a small price to pay!

Aquaponics and self-sufficiency

ReGen Village Netherlands Aquaponics

A number of recent articles (e.g. http://bit.ly/29uuxQk and http://bit.ly/2asxNk6) have highlighted the efforts of Californian company ReGen to develop a demonstrator village of 100 self-sufficient homes in the Netherlands.  ReGen then plans to build more villages in Sweden, Norway, Germany and Denmark.

ReGen’s self-sufficiency model estimates that a family of three would need 639m2 to live in and provide for all of its water, energy, food and waste processing needs. Given that according to a 2012 survey the average UK home is around 92m2, comparatively 639m2 sounds like quite a lot of space.  However, it includes 120m2 of living space, and can be arranged vertically to reduce the footprint.  ReGen also estimate that the same family of three would need 8,100m2 of land to support themselves using conventional agriculture, making their system nearly 13 times more space efficient.

Of course the interesting aspect for us is that the ReGen model includes 300m2 of Aquaponics to produce fish and plant crops, and a Black Soldier Fly based waste processing system.  Black Soldier Fly grubs are incredibly efficient at eating organic waste, such as waste food and kitchen scraps.  When the grubs have had their fill, what remains is a well-mixed low-odour soil enhancer that can be composted or further processed to produce biogas.  Most importantly however, the grubs themselves provide a high protein food source for the fish in the aquaponics system.  This means that levels of environmentally damaging fishmeal used to produce commercial fish food can be reduced and even eliminated, creating a ‘closed-loop’ system where waste is turned into food and energy. Very neat.

ReGen Village Model 2

This approach is seen as a way to produce more resilient communities that have some protection from climate change with less environmental impact, and to provide a higher quality of life.  ReGen’s goal is to increase political will to make their self-sufficient development model mainstream in the developed and developing world. Of course this is the tricky bit, particularly the UK.  Brexit, our entrenched housebuilding industry, and high land prices are all obstacles.

However, we don’t have to compete with housebuilders for prime development land. Sinus Lynge of EFFEKT architects who helped develop the ReGen model talks about the fact that giving up space to food in inner city areas is “unthinkable”, but is it really?  There are currently some great UK examples of urban farming and aquaponics, such as Growing Underground and GrowUp, that are blazing the trail to demonstrate the scalability and affordability of such urban farms.  What we need is more of them, and fast. Of particular importance is demonstrating the viability of urban aquaponics schemes that have been ‘retrofitted’ into disused or underutilised buildings, on the roofs of occupied buildings, or even underground. Developing such opportunistic urban niches is the way to sway local and national political will, and arguably a more effective way of connecting with more people than the semi-rural villages depicted in ReGen’s images. Perhaps then the next list of proposed ReGen villages might also include city-based projects in the UK.

EU has already used up fish supplies for 2016

Name-a-fish3 - pair

Announced by The NEF (New Economics Foundation), last week saw ‘fish dependence day’ the annual day where EU fish consumption exceeds domestic fish production. From now until the end of the year,, All fish consumed by EU nations will have to be imported.
Aside from issues with air miles and carbon emissions, importing food is not necessarily a bad thing as it maintains important trading relationships and allows nations play to their strengths in terms of efficient production.

However, the EU has a bit of a fishy problem. Many European fish stocks are already overfished, and have been for several years as a result of increasing fish consumption in the EU over the past 50 years. In response to this, imports from non­EU nations have also increased over this time. However, whilst the EU enforces fairly strict regulations in attempt maintain a sustainable fishing regime, international fisheries lack the implementation of such regulations, which as well as being unsustainable has depleted local communities of their own fish stocks, as well as playing complete havoc on ecosystems and food chains.

But don’t worry, It’s not all bad news! Firstly, UK fish dependence day is forecast for the 19th of September this year, meaning the UK is more self­ sufficient than the EU as a whole (nice to know in the midst of post­Brexit madness!) Also, the proportion of overfished EU fish stocks has decreased since 2006 as a result of reduced fish dependence in the EU.

This announcement really highlights the need for alternative sources of food, which is where aquaponics has huge potential to contribute significantly to reducing sole reliance on EU and international fish stocks, and increase focus and production efforts of locally sourced food ­ no oceans required! :­)

So what do we think? IS aquaponics the answer? What contribution could aquaponics make to this? And how do we bring about change to implement these alternative sources?