ARC embarks on Tilapia and Crayfish Aquaponics Research

In the Roodeplaat area, north of Pretoria in Gauteng, lies one of the Agricultural Research Council’s (ARC) 11 research campuses. The Roodeplaat Facility is home to Vegetable and Ornamental Plants (VOP) campus, which has a long history of research, innovation and technology transfer on the production of potatoes and vegetables, and indigenous flowers. It is here at VOP that the ARCs undercover farming and hydroponics research facility is located, which includes a number of greenhouse tunnels and shade net structures. Work here includes research on vegetables and leafy greens, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, kale, spinach and lettuce, as well as medical plant such as the African Moringa, and traditional food crops such as Amaranth.

ARC VOP has many tunnel and shade net structures, used for hydroponic research
ARC VOP has many tunnel and shade net structures, used for hydroponic research

The VOP has assisted many new entrants establish their hydroponics vegetable farming enterprises, through their extension and advisory services, and project incubation in Gauteng and the rest of South Africa.

For more about VOI go to: http://www.arc.agric.za/arc-vopi/Pages/ARC-VOPI-Homepage.aspx

The VOP aims at continually developing new agricultural innovations that can expand existing enterprises or improve their financial and environmental sustainability. As one facet of this aim, ARC-VOP has embarked on aquaponics research through the inclusion of integrated systems for tilapia and freshwater crayfish.

The start of 2015 saw the breaking of ground for construction of two new recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS’s) linked to i) greenhouse tunnel open bag hydroponic systems for tilapia aquaponics research, and ii) gravel bed hydroponic systems for freshwater crayfish aquaponics experiments. Each system presents an opportunity for testing of different systems and business models, for the current projects, but for many more future projects in the years to come.

Dr Martin Maboko and Mr Silence Chiloane
Dr Martin Maboko and Mr Silence Chiloane who manage the hydroponics facilities and research projects at VOP overseeing construction of the new recirculating aquaculture systems.

The freshwater crayfish aquaculture and aquaponics research at VOP will be run by Catherine Greengrass, a PhD candidate from Rhodes University under the supervisor of Prof. Peter Britz. Catherine will be investigating tank farming technologies for the Australian freshwater crayfish Cherax cainii (common/culinary name: Marron) including intra-specific aggression, shelter use behaviour, feeding behaviour and preference. Preliminary observations of the crayfish began in March 2016 and experiments will kick off in just a few weeks.

Recirculating aquaculture system (back left) adjacent to hydroponic gravel bed system (front right) for integration into aquaponics.
Construction completed! Recirculating aquaculture system (back left) adjacent to hydroponic gravel bed system (front right) for integration into aquaponics.

For more information on the Marron research check back here regularly for updates, pics and vides, follow @crayfishsa on Twitter, or send Catherine an email at catherine@gaiaaquaculture.com.