Wednesday, February 19

Growing fresh and healthy food at home through aquaponics

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Children feeding freshwater fish while learning about aquaponics.

Children feeding freshwater fish while learning about aquaponics.

MIRI: Greater public awareness and growing concern over the effects of pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotic residuals in food on human health are driving people to look for alternatives for reliable, healthy food.

Aquaponics has been found to be a viable method of growing food at home or in the garden. It is flexible and versatile enough that food can even be grown in urban areas such as on one’s balcony or in one’s backyard.

Urban farmer Philip Loo, founder of Loo Urban Farm in Penang, is willing to share his aquaponics success story.

Before he started urban farming, Loo – who graduated in computer science from Australia – had been in the IT solutions business for more than 15 years. He was searching for a change and looking for ways to heal his deteriorating health due to his hectic and pressured working schedule.

He has successfully transformed his home in Georgetown into a 2500 sq ft integrated vertical aquaponics farm which produces 250 kg of fresh, toxic-free and pesticide-free vegetables and 50 kg of antibiotic-free and hormone-free fish monthly.

Customers visit his urban farm to pick out vegetables and fish for themselves and purchase them on the spot.

Loo’s farm has attracted interest locally and abroad and was featured in a number of local newspapers. He was also invited to speak on live TV.

Loo has done extensive research on aquaponics and even went to Taiwan to participate in an advanced aquaponics course conduct by Avata Aquaponics. During his stay there, he also visited Yamana Garden to learn about permaculture.

Upon returned to Malaysia, he has devoted all his time to research and development in integrated vertical farming and aquaponics.

Aquaponics is simply defined as a marriage between aquaculture and hydroponics.

The fish waste serves as an organic food source for growing plants while the plants provide a natural water filter for the fish in a closed loop system. By combining both systems, aquaponics capitalises on the benefits and eliminates the drawbacks of each to form a symbiotic system.

Aquaponics is a relatively easy-to-maintain farming system that does not require watering, fertilising, weeding, digging and crop rotation. Plants grow faster, healthier and require less space. The use of pesticides and antibiotics can also be eliminated.

Aquaponics has been recognised as an organic farming method in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Loo will be facilitating an aquaponics workshop on Oct 22 in Miri.

This one-day workshop aims to equip participants with all they need to know about aquaponics and to start building their own aquaponics system.

Due to the nature of the workshop, limited seats are available. For details, visit http://loourbanfarm.com or call 016-4181708 (Loo) or 016-8842236 (course coordinator Vincent Chin).

Participants will also be provided with three-months of technical support both online and on-site to assist with starting their own aquaponics system.