Aquaponics in the Neighbourhood


I’ve just watched 2 lectures on aquaponics as part of the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and lecturer Max Meyers made strong points about sustainable fishing, polluting the water, and less land use for aquaponics rather than agriculture.


Max Meyers is one of the lecturers in the Permaculture Design course

He also raised some remarkable benefits including 70% less water needed for production when you would think it would need more, given that it is water-based, and the 75% reduction in labour needed than traditional farming. These two benefits alone are huge and could have an incredible impact on the lives of food growers. It also means it puts it more in reach of every day householders as it isn’t such a drain on resources.

So this made me wonder, are there any aquaponics farms near Melbourne? Is it possible to buy fish from that source rather than supporting the continued overfishing of our oceans or from the impacts of farmed fishing? I hear farmed fishing also has its downsides, see 9 Things Everyone Should Know About Farmed Fish or for a short video:

From what I can see from our trusty friend Google, CERES, always a world leader in sustainability practices, has an aquaponics installation.

A drawing of the CERES aquaponics system

No vendors popped out to sell me their fish though.  Really, the focus seems to be on education and training to be able to set up your own aquaponics system at home.  Here is a small example of aquaponics that might appeal to people who want to keep fish as pets.

Aquaponics with a goldfish bowl

And other sites are all about supporting you to do it yourself.

Or a bigger example of backyard aquaponics from Western Australia:

Alfcon’s Aquaponics has a round up of resources in Australia and the US.

The Ballarat Fish Hatchery provides advice on Stocking Your Aquaponics System.

Poor fish, I have to feel a bit sorry for them when their size is discussed in relation to the dinner plate.

In conclusion, it seems that in Victoria there are no current aquaponics systems with a commercial yield at present (or at least with an online presence or with any buzz on forums). This looks like an opportunity for some enterprising souls. According to this article on Farming Fish,

“Australians consume about 40 per cent less seafood than recommended for a healthy diet”,

and “local wild-caught and farmed fish accounts for just a quarter of national consumption”,

with the majority of the remainder imported from New Zealand and South-East Asia so that suggests quite high growth potential. On the other hand, there are a number of resources available to assist in setting up your own aquaponics system. Ballarat Fish Hatchery would recommend a 1,000 litre fish tank to hold 50 fish.  For a rough idea of size, here is a photo of an outdoor tank:

An installation at Albany State High shown on Murray Hallam's Aquaponics website

An installation at Albany State High shown on Murray Hallam’s Aquaponics website

Or source a kit from a supplier such as Practical Aquaponics.  The typical drawback is cost in Australia as most kits seem to run into the thousands of dollars but are tested models, versus building up your own aquaponics knowledge and designing and creating your own system.  As a fairly new industry, innovations are evolving, such as Grow Packed, which is now available in Australia for vertical plant production towers, called ZipGrow.  Or check out Pinterest for many aesthetically pleasing ideas.

It’s an exciting field to watch as it develops.

Perhaps I shall reflect on this while watching our clown loaches swim in our fish tank…

A clown loach swimming in our fish tank

A clown loach swimming in our fish tank

Have you set up your own aquaponics system? What was your experience like? Have you heard of any aquaponically-grown fish available for sale?



Tapping into the Past


I read this article, Rethinking Indigenous Australia’s agricultural past last week and I was pleased to see some greater understanding of the past of land management by aboriginal people in Australia.

This presents a different image of the Australian landscape and land management and practices pre-European settlement than has been taught in schools here over the years. It shows that it was possible to design the land for diversity of life, provide shelter, limit risks relating to flood/drought/fire/famine, and continue in this way for potentially thousands of years.

Is this the sustainability dream? As Bill Gammage (author of The Biggest Estate on Earth) comments in this video, we wouldn’t be looking at a total adoption of this way of life for today’s inhabitants. We would need to learn about fire, and our population is too big for these practices to work, let alone issues around attitudes and expectations of way of life to make such a radical change from how society looks now.  We would need a compromise where we don’t lose our biodiversity such as we are now, where we are not so threatened by the extremes climate change and the harsh natural cycles of Australia bring.  Debate in the political sphere here seems almost stuck at the first step, just acknowledging that this is happening.  What about the next step?  We need circulation of this understanding and these ideas to churn knowledge into possibility for the future.


I’ll finish up these thoughts with two quotes; this one because I have always liked it:

“Not all those who wander are lost” J. R. R. Tolkien

And this quote from Bill Gammage, which gives us a mission and a glimpse of a new identity:

“If we are to survive, let alone feel at home, we must begin to understand our country. If we succeed, one day we might be Australian.”