Old Forecast of Famine May Yet Come True

Two centuries ago — only 10 years after a hungry, angry populace had ushered in the French Revolution — the dour Englishman predicted that exponential population growth would condemn humanity to the edge of subsistence.

“The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race,” he wrote with alarm.

This was, we now know, wrong. The gloomy forecast was soon buried under an avalanche of progress that spread from England around the world. Between 1820 and the year 2000 the world’s population grew sixfold. Economic output multiplied by more than 50.

Nonetheless, Malthus’s prediction was based on an eminently sensible premise: that the earth’s carrying capacity has a limit. On Monday, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided a sharp-edged warning about how fast we are approaching this constraint.

“In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face,” Vicente Barros, co-chairman of the panel and professor emeritus of climatology at the University of Buenos Aires, said.

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The list of present damages outlined by the United Nations panel — melting ice caps and rising sea levels, stressed water supplies, heat waves and heavy rains — underscored the risk if humanity does not figure out how to curb the use of fossil fuels that have provided the lifeblood for economic development since the time of Malthus.

But what most stood out in the report from the panel, which gathers every few years to produce a synthesis of mainstream science’s take on climate change, was that it rolled straight into Malthus’s territory, providing its starkest warning yet about the challenge imposed by global warming on the world’s food supply.

The panel’s past report in 2007 had concluded: “Globally, the potential for food production is projected to increase with increases in local average temperature over a range of one to three degrees Celsius.”

But the new report is much more pessimistic about the prospect of extra grain production in the globe’s temperate zones, where more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase the rate of photosynthesis, raising yields, and warmer weather would lengthen the growing season.

Faster photosynthesis will help weeds more than cereal crops, while the accumulation of ozone and high temperatures would reduce yields of all the major grains, according to the report.

This would be bad enough if demand for food were to remain constant. It won’t. Studies suggest that feeding more than nine billion people in 2050 will require 70 percent more calories than the world’s population consumes today, according to Craig Hanson, director of food, forests and water programs at the World Resources Institute.

Indeed, the panel calculates that food demand is rising at a pace of 14 percent per decade. But it estimates that climate change is already reducing wheat yields by 2 percent each decade — compared with where they would be in the absence of climate change — and corn yields by 1 percent.

“This is a wake-up call for the agriculture sector,” Mr. Hanson said. “Climate change is a food security issue. It’s not just an environmental issue.”

The climate panel’s findings do not quite endorse the Malthusian idea that famine will spread practically everywhere. But a world with a more unstable food supply is likely to be a more volatile place. And those most exposed, of course, will be the world’s poor.

Recent experience suggests that the productivity of farmland won’t decline gradually as the world grows warmer. World food prices stopped their long secular decline around 2007 and have been on a roller-coaster ride since. More volatile weather patterns promise to bring sharp disruptions to agricultural production that can cause spikes in food prices.

“There is a rigorous correlation between food price spikes and urban unrest,” said Andrew Holland, who studies climate change at the American Security Project, a research group in Washington. “There was a food price spike in 2008, and you can see unrest spread throughout Africa. And there’s a relatively clear line that leads from the food price spike in 2010 to unrest in the Middle East and the Arab Spring.”

Instability spreads easily. When rice prices jumped in 2007, big producers like India and Vietnam banned exports to protect their domestic markets, while importers like Bangladesh, Nigeria and Iran went out on the market to hoard as much grain as they could. The combination wreaked havoc in commodity markets.

Since then big food importers, like China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea, have tried to insulate themselves from future food shortages by buying or leasing agricultural land in places like Sudan, Madagascar and Uzbekistan. The strategy is still to be tested in a situation in which Africa or Central Asia were to suffer itself shortages of grain.

“I have run some war game scenarios,” Mr. Holland said. “The tendency becomes very quickly for a country to look after its own interests.”

Still, there are good reasons to take prophesies of doom with more than a pinch of salt. Ecological Cassandras have consistently underestimated humanity’s capacity to invent ways around constraints, using resources more efficiently and switching from scarcer commodities to more abundant ones.

In “The Population Bomb,” published in 1968, the noted Stanford ecologist Paul R. Ehrlich wrote “in the 1970s the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” In “The End of Affluence,” written six years later, he forecast “a genuine age of scarcity” by 1985.

Today, Professor Ehrlich is perhaps best known for his bet with the economist Julian L Simon — a committed believer in the power of human ingenuity — who in 1980 challenged Mr. Ehrlich to choose any five commodities and accurately predicted that Mr. Ehrlich’s basket would be cheaper 10 years later, not scarcer and more expensive.

Indeed, the climate panel suggests a variety of ways in which countries could adapt to a changing climate. Farmers could breed new species to better resist heat and drought. Water harvesting techniques could be used to delay evaporation. Rotation of crops could help improve yields.

The United Nations panel reported that a survey of various studies concluded that adapting crop management could raise yields of wheat, rice and maize from 15 to 18 percent compared with doing nothing.

Changes in demand and logistics could also help cope with scarcer food. Mr. Hanson pointed out that fully one-quarter of the food produced in the world today is wasted — by either poor storage and transport infrastructure in developing countries or wasteful consumers in the rich world.

But for all the evidence of humankind’s ability to adapt to its environmental constraints, it would be reckless to assume that ingenuity will arrive just in time to pull us from the brink.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank that is skeptical about global warming, 13 years ago created the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award to celebrate his “vision of man as the ultimate resource.” But Mr. Simon got lucky, too. Had the bet extended for 30 years rather than 10, it would have gone to Mr. Ehrlich.

Retrieved from – http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/02/business/energy-environment/a-200-year-old-forecast-for-food-scarcity-may-yet-come-true.html?

Tetley using ‘virtual assistant’ to promote tea sales

Queue management firm Tensator announced it has helped long-standing British tea brand Tetley cause a stir in Kuwait’s supermarkets, by using Virtual Assistants to promote tea.

Tensator’s Virtual Assistant Ultra model has been installed at 10 Co-op stores across the country, and brings the mechanism of Tetley’s drawstring teabags to life with a live demonstration.

Currently in stores in Jahra, Defence, Madina Saad, Sulaibhikhat, Adan, Qusoor, Rumaithiya, Rikka, Fahaheel, and Salmiya, the 50x50cm unit is designed for retail shop floor promotions, and to create a buzz around a particular product.

According to the company, The Virtual Assistant Ultra is a next-generation digital signage solution that uses cutting-edge technology to project an image and create the illusion of a real person. This gives it the unique ability to bring messages to life and attract more sales. Its integrated Bose sound system and ability to showcase Tetley’s range of drawstring teabags in detail means that the benefits of the product are made much clearer to crowds of shoppers than would otherwise be possible without devoting extra staff.

Tetley’s parent company, Indian tea giant Tata Global Beverages, said it was attracted to the Tensator Virtual Assistant Ultra because of its ability to interact and create a wow factor in store.

“This is a first for supermarkets in Kuwait and the wider Middle East, and the Virtual Assistant experience is very life-like and unique,” said Danny Finney, Commercial Director for Tata Global Beverages in the Middle East. “As a brand, Tetley has a long history of innovation so we think it’s a perfect fit to use state of the art technology to demonstrate our revolutionary Drawstring teabag.

Retrieved from – http://www.retailcustomerexperience.com/article_print/224551/Tetley-using-virtual-assistant-to-promote-tea-sales

Certified Organic Farmland Still Lagging Worldwide

Despite the growing worldwide demand for organic food, clothing, and other products, the area of land certified as organic still makes up just 0.9 percent of global agricultural land. In 2010, the latest year for which data are available, 37 million hectares of land were organically farmed —an area that has grown more than threefold since 1999.

There is large regional variation in the area of land farmed organically. Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations, leads the world in certified organic land, with 12.1 million hectares in 2010. In contrast, North America had 2.6 million hectares of organic land, and Africa had just over 1 million hectares.

Reliable data are lacking for land that is farmed using organic principles but that is not certified organic. Many farmers, particularly subsistence farmers or those selling to local markets, farm organically but do not acquire organic certification. Certified organic products have created a niche market in recent decades, allowing farmers to earn premium prices over conventional products, particularly when selling to supermarkets or restaurants.

The countries with the most certified organic producers in 2010 were India (400,551 farmers), Uganda (188,625), and Mexico (128,826), while the region that added the most organic farmland between 2009 and 2010 was Europe. Overall, the amount of organically farmed land worldwide dropped slightly, by 0.1 percent, between 2009 and 2010—due largely to a decrease in organic land in India and China.

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements defines organic agriculture is a production system that relies on ecological processes, such as waste recycling, rather than the use of synthetic inputs, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The benefits are myriad: organic farming can require up to 50 percent less fossil fuel energy than conventional farming, and boost on-farm biodiversity by an average of 30 percent. It can help soil retain water and nutrients, improving resilience to drought and other harsh weather patterns. And it reduces human exposure to chemicals or toxic residues, which have been linked to a variety of illnesses. Organic land can return higher yields than land farmed conventionally,particularly when the land has been farmed organically for several years running.

The modern organic farming movement emerged in the 1950s and 1960s largely as a reaction to consumer concerns about the rising use of agro-chemicals. The period after World War II and through the 1950s is commonly known as the “golden age of pesticides.” But as the health and ecological impacts of agro-chemicals began to be understood, governments started to regulate their use and consumers began demanding organically certified foods.

Producing food sustainably, which includes farming without chemicals whenever possible, will be as important as ever in the coming decades, as the global population continues to grow and as climate change affects land quality worldwide. Organic farming has the potential to contribute to sustainable food security by improving nutrition intake and supporting livelihoods in rural areas, while simultaneously enhancing biodiversity and reducing vulnerability to climate change.

Retrieved from – http://www.worldwatch.org/node/12270

Dhunseri buys two tea estates in Malawi for Rs 122 cr

KOLKATA, JULY 28: Kolkata-based Dhunseri Petrochem & Tea Ltd has acquired two tea estates in the Republic of Malawi, a landlocked country in southeast Africa, at a consideration of Rs 122 crore ($22 million). Together the estates have a capacity to produce 9.5 million kg (mkg) of tea and 0.5 mkg of macadamia and coffee. Dhunseri currently produces 13.5 mkg of tea in India.

Following the acquisition, Dhunseri’s annual production is likely to be around 23 mkg, Mr C.K. Dhanuka, Chairman of the company, said. This incidentally, is its first acquisition overseas.

According to a notification by the company to the NSE, it has bought two tea estates in AfricaMakandi Tea & Coffee Estates Ltd and Kawalzi Estate Company Ltd — through its wholly owned subsidiary, Dhunseri Pertrochem & Tea Pte Ltd. The tea estates were acquired from London-based Global Tea & Commodities Ltd through a share purchase agreement. “We were previously looking for acquisitions in Kenya and Vietnam. However, we intend to keep plans on hold for another year or so. But if an opportunity comes midway we might take it up,” he said.

Retrieved from – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/article3696420.ece

China is becoming the world’s largest cow buyer

As the growing demand for dairy products in China domestic market, the number of imported cow rise sharply in recent years .

Now China has become the world’s largest cows buyer, which not only promote the international market prices climbed all the way to the cow, but also made the price of related alfalfa, thoroughbred cattle, cattle semen and embryos go high price. According to the global trade information research organization investigation, China imported 100,000 cows from Australia, Uruguay and New Zealand amount to approximately $250 million in 2011.
In 2012, Uruguay will exports to nearly 36,000 heads of cattle and the average price will be more than twice of 2009.This year the number of import cows will reach 110,000 heads. However those imported cows still couldn’t meet the demand of China market. So there are still many opportunities for the foreign dairy and cow industries entering China market.

Retrieved from – http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/716260/Country-sees-surging-imports-of-cattle.aspx

African countries invite Indian investment in agriculture

African nations like Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique invited Indian investors to invest in various sectors, especially in agriculture, saying this has the potential to provide food to both Africa and India.

Diplomats from the three countries showcased the immense potential and urged Indian investors to take advantage of the investor-friendly climate and a host of incentives they were offering.

They were addressing a session on “Doing business with African countries” organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here Thursday.

The diplomats told the investors that by investing in their respective countries, they (the investors) can also reach out to markets in the entire Africa, Middle East and European Union.

With vast unutilised arable land, best agro-climatic conditions, a stable political system and investment incentives including 100 percent repatriation of profit, the African countries offer huge business opportunities to Indian investors, they said.

The diplomats said African nations were ideal destination for investment for Indian investors given the commonalities between India and Africa.

Susan Sikaneta, high commissioner of Zambia, said Indians with their good knowledge of agriculture, expertise and technology should come forward to invest in agriculture in Zambia, which is offering land and other incentives on first come, first served basis.

The central African country has 43 million hectares of land but only six million is being currently used.

“Chinese are coming in big numbers but we love Indians to come. You have passion for Africa. You are not like other countries which are interested only in making money,” she said advising investors not to miss the opportunity.

Eighty percent of Zambia’s 13 million population is dependent on agriculture. The investors can grow and export maize, cotton, wheat ando ther produce.

Maria Fatima G.C. Phume, deputy high commissioner of Mozambique, said only 15 percent of 36 million hectares of arable land in her country was utilised due to lack of agriculture technology.

She said Mozambique, which was one of the world’s fastest growing economies, offers excellent investment opportunities in agriculture,energy, mining and infrastructure.

“The investment in agriculture can not only secure food for our people but also for India. The investors can also export the agriculture produce to other African countries and Middle East,” she said.

With 23.4 million population, Mozambique has Portuguese as national language but English is widely used for business purposes

Jerusalem Amdemariam, minister counsellor, economic and business in the Ethiopian embassy, highlighted the investment incentives like 100 percent exemption from import duties. The investors are allowed to repatriate the entire profit. Agro-processing industries are also exempted from income tax for two to seven years

With 82 million population, Ethiopia is the second most populous African country after Nigeria and with its proximity to Middle East and Europe, offers access to big markets.

She said Indian government was collaborating in road developments and laying new railway lines. Ethiopia offers tremendous business opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing particularly agro-processing,food and beverages, she added.

I.Y.R Krishna Rao, Andhra Pradesh’s special chief secretary, cooperation and agri-marketing, said a delegation headed by state agriculture minister would soon visit Africa to explore investment opportunities in agriculture and allied sectors.

“We should really build up mutually beneficial relationship in agriculture which has tremendous implications in terms of food security in India and as well as Africa,” he said.

Rao said once African agriculture develops, it can to a large extent ensure food security of the world. “As a continent, in terms of agriculture, there is a lot of scope for development there,” he said.

Suchitra K. Ella, chairperson, CII-Andhra Pradesh, said there was tremendous scope for cooperation between India and the three African countries given their historic relationship and the commonalities.

Retrieved from – http://twocircles.net/2012jun21/african_countries_invite_indian_investment_agriculture.html

Vietnam set to beat India to emerge as the commodity trading hub of South-East Asia

When Singapore Mercantile Exchange, the first pan-Asian commodity exchange, opened for business in February, it chose Ho Chi Minh City as the delivery benchmark for its pepper contract, constituting a fresh setback for India in its losing battle against Vietnam for supremacy as South-East Asia’s commodity hub.

Prices set on the Mumbai-based National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Ltd (NCDEX) have traditionally moved the global pepper market, but now this edge is in danger of being lost.

“The new exchange is still in a nascent stage. But Vietnamese traders are aggressive. The warehouses as delivery points for the exchange are getting full,” said S Kannan, executive director at the Jakarta-based International Pepper Community, an inter-governmental association of pepper-producing nations.

The annual global pepper market is worth around $2 billion. Singapore Mercantile Exchange’s preference for Vietnam as the new market mover is an indication that the global market no longer considers India as an influential player due to its declining volumes.

This is the latest in a series of setbacks that India has suffered on the commodities front as a combination of stagnant yields, rising labour costs, tiny farms, low mechanisation and faulty government policies erode the country’s competitiveness in comparison with its South-East Asian rival.

Though it is no match for India in size and resources, Vietnam’s graph as a commodity hub has been steadily climbing. In the past five years, the country with a population of 90 million has, one by one, overtaken India in production and export of cashew, seafood, coffee and pepper. Very soon, it is expected to surpass India in rubber production as well.

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Vietnam’s aggressive growth in agriculture and commodity trade has begun attracting global investors.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a division of the World Bank, recently announced two investments totalling $40 million to aid Vietnam’s growing demand for trade and commodity financing.

Vietnam gets its edge from policies which link the entire value chain from production to the final consumer overseas and are designed to improve efficiency at each level, said PK Joshi, director (South Asia), International Food Policy Research Institute, a Washington-based think tank that helped the South-East Asian nation boost its rice production a decade ago.

“Vietnam has a policy for production that ensures timely delivery of inputs and high-quality services, a policy to create market linkages, and a very effective trade policy with clear strategies on how to target each market.

Together, this becomes a great recipe for success in the global commodity market,” Joshi added.

A decade ago, India was the world’s largest pepper producer, with an annual crop of 80,000 tonnes.

But while its annual production has declined to 48,000 tonnes, Vietnam’s has increased to 1.20 lakh tonnes, and it now exports almost five times more pepper than India.

“Vietnam has successfully introduced high-yielding pepper vines from Madagascar,” said CP Krishnan, director, Geojit Comtrade, a commodity brokerage.

A similar story was repeated in cashew nuts. India used to buy raw cashew nuts from Vietnam for processing and re-export, but soon Vietnam set up its own processing centres. Today, it exports around 1.70 lakh tonnes of cashew kernels versus 1.10 lakh tonnes by India

Higher productivity has taken Vietnam past India in the global seafood market as well. “Vietnam has gone in for intensive cultivation. While we have touched $3.5 billion in seafood export, they have crossed $5 billion,” said Anwar Hashim, managing director, Abad Fisheries.

The shrimp, Vannamei, currently a top money-spinner in the world market, is a good example of how India has lost the race. “Vietnam’s production of Vannamei is around 75,000 tonnes while we are at 30,000-40,000 tonnes. In Basa, which is widely consumed as fillets, Vietnam has a productivity of 250 tonnes per hectare, while we are at 20 tonnes,” added Hashim.

In rubber, too, India’s position as the fourth-biggest producer is under threat from Vietnam’s faster growth. Last year, its production grew 8% to 8.12 lakh tonnes and it is slated to rise by 6% this year to 8.6 lakh tonnes.

In comparison, India’s rubber production rose by 4.9% to 8.93 lakh tonnes in 2011. It is expected to slow down to a mere 4% and reach 9.27 lakh tonnes this year.

Vietnam may overtake India by 2015, given its current rate of growth, said Jom Jacob, senior economist at the Kuala Lumpur-based Association of Natural Rubber Producing Nations.

“They are going for high-yielding clones to enhance production. Nearly half the plantations are state-owned and are run efficiently,” he added.

To stay in the reckoning, India needs to get its policy act together. “India is only targeting production. It is not thinking of marketing and it has nothing for trade.
We need to stop this piecemeal approach if we wish to stay competitive,” said Joshi.

Zambia invites Indian investment in all sectors of economy

Zambia, a peaceful and democratic African nation, is inviting Indian investment in all sectors of its vibrant economy, especially in agriculture, mining, tourism, ICT, energy, Education, manufacturing, energy and infrastructure development. Indian investment in Zambia has been mainly in areas of mining, energy and banking.

Zambia, which has embarked on an economic reform and private investment promotion process, is inviting investment in the other vastly untapped areas, especially agriculture, horticulture and agro-processing  and wild life tourism, with potential for development of wildlife estates.

Leading a 21-member business delegation from Zambia with representatives from the government, industry, trade and SMEs,  Mr Steven Mwansa, Permanent Secretary, Zambia Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry,  said here on Monday that, “Zambia also welcomes an opportunity to enhance its trade, investment and warm bilateral relations with India’’.

In an exclusive interaction and B2B meeting with Zambia investment and trade delegation, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), he said India is one of the key sources of foreign direct investment in Zambia.

The main investors are Vedanta Resources, Tata Africa Holdings, Kalpataru Power, Bharat Heavy Electricals, Exim Bank of India with a 34% share in the Development Bank of Zambia besides the presence of Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Central Bank as equity partners with other Banks in Zambia.

Zambia has a stable and growing economy and market. It has been ranked among the top ten best reformers in Africa by the World Bank Survey of 2011, and has got a B+ credit rating by Standard & Poor, making it a good investment destination, Mr Mwansa said.

With its Private sector Reform Development Programme (PSRDP) and through  ZDA,  Zambia has created an  Investment-friendly environment streamlining business licensing and administrative process related to business establishment.

The expected establishment of a single Free Trade Area(FTA) comprising 26 countries of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC) and South African Development Community  (SADC) by 2012,  would  create a larger market “that will be attractive to investments and conducive to large-scale production’’.

Mr J N Amrolia, Chairman, CII  Southern Region International Networking Forum and Director, Ashok Leyland John Deere Construction Equipment Company Pvt Ltd, said Zambia was a good investment destination and the country should be very high on the radar of Indian investment explorations.

Retrieved from – http://www.orissadiary.com/ShowBussinessNews.asp?id=31866

India to be 5th Largest Economy by 2020

A large part of Brazil’s economy relies on the production of commodities.

Brazil has overtaken the UK as the world’s sixth largest economy, an economic research group has said.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said its latest World Economic League Table showed Asian countries moving up and European countries falling back.

The CEBR also predicted that the UK economy would overtake France by 2016.

It also said the eurozone economy would shrink 0.6% in 2012 “if the euro problem is solved” or 2% if it is not.

CEBR chief executive Douglas McWilliams told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Brazil overtaking the UK was part of a growing trend.

“I think it’s part of the big economic change, where not only are we seeing a shift from the west to the east, but we’re also seeing that countries that produce vital commodities – food and energy and things like that – are doing very well and they’re gradually climbing up the economic league table,” he said.

Brazilian economy

  • GDP: $2.52tn (£1.6tn); CEBR estimate for 2011
  • Main exports: manufactured goods, iron ore, coffee, oranges and other agricultural produce
  • Exports in 2010 totalled $201.9bn*
  • Imports in 2010 of $181.6bn*
  • Its main export partners are China, the US and Argentina*
  • Government forecasts growth of 3.5% in 2011, compared with 7.5% in 2010

*Source: Brazilian Ministry of Development, Industry and Export

A report based on International Monetary Fund data published earlier this year also said the Brazilian economy would overtake the UK in 2011.

Brazil has a population of about 200 million, more than three times the population of the UK.

Brazil’s economy grew by 7.5% last year, but the government has cut its growth forecast for 2011 to 3.5% after the economy ground to a halt in the third quarter, with analysts blaming the country’s high interest rates and the worsening situation in the eurozone.

And although Brazil currently sells more to China than it imports, Brazilian manufacturers have complained that their industries are being affected by cheap mass-produced goods from the Asian giant.

The CEBR also said that Russia moved up one spot in its league table to ninth in 2011, and predicted that it would rise to fourth spot by 2020.

It predicted that India, the world’s 10th biggest economy in 2011, would become the fifth largest by 2020.

And it said European countries would drop down the table, with Germany falling from fourth in 2011 to seventh in 2020, the UK from seventh to eighth, and France from fifth to ninth.

CEBR World Economic League Table

Rank

2011

2020 (forecast)

1 US US
2 China China
3 Japan Japan
4 Germany Russia
5 France India
6 Brazil Brazil
7 UK Germany
8 Italy UK
9 Russia France
10 India Italy

Retrieved from – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16332115

 

Aquaponics, or growing plants in water from fish farming, is an efficient way to raise food and reduce waste

To some, aquaponics is the latest fad. To others, it is the future of urban agriculture.

Aquaponics is a blend of aquaculture — fish farming — and hydroponics, growing plants without soil in water. The idea is to grow fish in a tub or pool, using the nutrient-rich fish waste to fertilize vegetables and herbs grown hydroponically.

It is a nearly closed-loop system. The water from the fish tank, containing all the nutrients needed for plant growth, is pumped or diverted by gravity to the hydroponically grown plants. The plants filter ammonia and other fish waste products out of the water, which is then recirculated back to the fish. The only inputs required are food for the fish and small amounts of water to replenish what is lost through evaporation from the tank and transpiration through plant leaves.

Jeff Hafner checks on the growth of lettuce, which are part of an aquaponics facility on his organic farm near Panora, Iowa. Hafner, 43, is an army veteran and has opened his farming operation for tours through the national program of the Farmer Veteran Coalition. He grows everything from organic corn to conventional hogs. The coalition helps new veterans start a career in agriculture. (Gannett, David Purdy/The Des Moines Register)

Aquaponics systems provide two essential elements of the human diet — protein and vegetables — and can be run on a small scale for a backyard garden or a larger scale to produce food for a group of restaurants or even a whole community. It is becoming popular across the country as a way of providing locally grown, sustainably produced food. In fact, aquaponics systems use less than one-tenth the water of most soil-based growing systems. They become even more sustainable when paired with renewable energy sources such as solar- or geothermal-powered pumps and heaters.

Although both aquaculture and hydroponics systems are efficient and conserve natural resources by preventing overfishing of our oceans and using less space than traditional agriculture, aquaponics is even more sustainable than either aquaculture or hydroponics alone.

Symbiotic relationship – Aquaculture, similar to other intensive animal operations, has the problem of how to deal with the animal waste without harming the environment. Similarly, hydroponics systems require inputs of expensive commercial liquid fertilizers, and the water must be disposed of periodically and replaced to avoid a toxic buildup of salts from the fertilizers. The ammonia-rich fish waste that is toxic to fish in aquaculture becomes liquid gold for aquaponics growers, as it is taken up by plant roots to provide nutrients for the growing plants.

Many types of aquaponics systems exist, ranging from indoor systems with an aquarium and simple grow bed to outdoor systems protected by a greenhouse or hoop house and powered by the sun. Plants in these systems can grow with their roots directly in water and the plants held upright by a floating mat.

However, the easiest method is to grow plants in a coarse soilless medium, such as gravel or expanded shale, flooded periodically with water from the fish tank. This simple ebb-and-flood system can also become a home for composting worms, which, along with the beneficial bacteria that build up naturally in the system, break down the ammonia waste to a form plants prefer.

The most common plants grown in aquaponics systems include salad greens, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries.

But almost any type of plant can be grown, including herbs, root vegetables, melons, potatoes and even small trees.

The only plants that are difficult are those that require a very acidic medium such as blueberries, or a very alkaline medium such as rosemary.

Plants are usually started from seed, broadcast over the growing medium (small seeds) or germinated ahead in rockwool or peat plugs (larger seeds). You can even stick cuttings from existing plants in an aquaponics system if you cover them with plastic and provide shade until they form roots.

Heidi Kratsch is the area horticulture specialist with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached atkratschh@unce.unr.edu or 775-748-4848.

Retrieved from – http://www.rgj.com/article/20111210/COL0406/112100302/Aquaponics-growing-plants-water-from-fish-farming-an-efficient-way-raise-food-reduce-waste