Aquaponics to provide fresh produce to scholars

2017-03-30 06:02
<Learners from primary schools had an opportunity to plant their very own crops in the new aquaponics system at NMMU.Photo:SUPPLIED

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Two commercial size aquaponics units are being buildt at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University as part of a R37 million Health in Action programme which will provide children from primary schools in low-income communities with access to fresh, nutritious produce.

The Mondelez International Foundation (the Foundation), Mondelez South Africa and INMED Partnerships for Children are building the units.

Aquaponics is an innovative food production technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soil-less crop production, with the cultivation of plants in water).

“Daily consumption of fresh produce is widely acknowledged as key to a well-balanced diet, yet for many in low-income communities, healthy food choices are often out of reach,” said Joost Vlaanderen, Mondelez South Africa’s Managing Director.

Health in Action is a four-year primary school-based wellness program funded by the Foundation and implemented by INMED in South Africa.

The aquaponics system at NMMU is approximately 223 square meters in size and will at maximum capacity produce approximately 2 tons of various greens and approximately 1.9 tons of fish annually.

While fish will be harvested twice a year, vegetables will be available throughout the year once the system is running.

The facility comprises 5 fish tanks filled with tilapia, as well as 9 grow beds planted with a variety of fast-growing crops.

Lettuce, spinach, peppers, cucumbers and herbs are among the nutritious, organic fresh produce that is being grown in the system. The aquaponics plant will also provide research opportunities for agricultural students from NMMU.

Unathi Sihlahla, Program Director of INMED South Africa highlighted the importance of adopting sustainable food pro-duction practices that conserve natural resources at a time when drought has been threatening the water supply and food security in the Nelson Mandela Bay region.

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