João Cotter is responsible for Aquaponics Iberia and the Fish n ’Greens project. It operates in the area of aquaponics. Do you know what it is? Aquaponics aims to produce vegetables and fish. Fish produce nitrogen compounds that are used as a natural fertilizer for plants. It is a system that, simultaneously and with little space, manages to produce two different types of food, basing its production process on the principles of Circular Economy.
Curious? Immerse yourself in this story with us and discover a new way to make future food systems more sustainable.
Aquaponics Iberia appears…
… in order to maximize the production of safe and quality food in places with reduced space. By 2050, the planet will have 10 billion inhabitants! Most of them will live in cities. Population growth grows inversely to the space for food production, which in cities is still lower than in rural areas.
The co-founders of Aquaponic Iberia have training and a lot of professional and research experience in the area of aquaculture and marine biology. In 2012 they started the Fish n ‘Greens project, in order to create the first urban aquaponics unit in Portugal. In order to break the ignorance, prejudices and bureaucracy that existed in Portugal for the development of the company, it was necessary to raise awareness among the population and institutions for aquaponics, “throughout the country and islands”, which increased the interest of many by this food production system.
With the success achieved with the promotion of the Fish n ‘Greens project, the co-founders decided to create the company Aquaponics Iberia, in 2017, maintaining the training and awareness actions for aquaponics, at the same time that they develop “several projects and installations of aquaponics, whether at the scale of commercial production, or for educational and research purposes in schools, universities and municipalities ”. Research and innovation are important points in this company, which allowed the development of “a more efficient modular aquaponic technology, which generates greater productivity, less water consumption, greater reuse of resources and less maintenance interventions”. There is greater production with lower economic and environmental costs. This technology was called CLIMATE SMART.
The company continues to build on the Fish n ’Greens project, innovating and valuing it with the creation of this modular technology. At the moment, they are looking for partners to implement this modular structure for the first time.
The Fish n ’Greens aquaponics project,…
… allows Aquaponics Iberia to produce and make available “fresh, local and ultra-organic vegetables and fresh fish with ASC certification, in the most sustainable and productive way, through our urban aquaponics technology and consumer interface strategies, increasing the resilience and self-sufficiency in the cities’ food supply
They produce more fresh food in smaller spaces, with less expenditure of water and energy. Consumers can purchase “aromatic herbs, fruits and vegetables in general, as well as fresh fish, without resorting to pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, medicines and without the current contaminants in the natural environment, such as heavy metals, microplastics or other toxins and pathogenic elements ”.
In addition to the production and sale of food, they intend to have a space where they sell fresh food and a bistro, combining the training component, with a training room in that same space. Awareness-raising actions are carried out through “guided visits to school groups and groups of general public, promoting environmental education and more sustainable food consumption habits”.
Aquaponics Iberia intends to…
… “sow" effectively sustainable, fresh and healthy food production systems in the cities of our planet. They intend to provide more sustainable and quality food solutions to urban communities, “combined with an educational, interactive and transparent experience”. In order to achieve this goal, they intend to make consumers aware of the Fish n ‘Greens modular aquaponics technology.
The Aquaponics Iberia team is experienced, motivated, diverse and multidisciplinary…
… and is focused on generating added value for European city food systems.
The team is formed by:
João Cotter – Master in Marine Biology and MBA:
. Consultant, designer, project manager and aquaponics instructor in the Fish n ‘Greens project;
. Aquaculture researcher;
. Food retail consultant;
. Aquaponics project manager in the Caribbean, with INMED, the Jamaican Government and the United Nations, to support the social and economic development of the region through the integration of agriculture and aquaculture adapted to climate change.
Orlando Rodrigues – Degree in Oceanography and Master in Aquaculture:
. Responsible for operations, logistics, purchasing, planning, system design, installation and development of new equipment and products in the Fish n ‘Greens project;
. Participated in several international aquaponics courses and workshops;
. Decades of experience in aquaponics installation and production.
Paulo Torres – Marine Biologist and holds a PhD in Marine Biology and Ecology:
. Head of the R&D department and for product development, sales, cooperation with schools in educational projects in aquaponics, improvement of biological and productivity processes and studies of efficiency and growth with new techniques, new species and fish feeding;
. Passionate entrepreneur and researcher, with several scientific works published in international magazines.
Patrícia Cotter – Training in organic farming and food processing:
. Responsible for commercial development, along with administrative work, operational management and research in the food area;
. Experience in plant care, namely germination, nutrition and pest control;
. Experience in retail sales, IT and telecommunications;
. Its greatest value is customer service and customer acquisition.
Christopher Hawkins – Economist, specializing in Public Relations, Tourism, Recruitment and Digital Marketing:
. Responsible for the growth of Fish n ‘Greens in European cities, by identifying partnership opportunities and the most appropriate markets;
. Business developer;
. Internationalization specialist – experience in foreign markets around the world.
Aquaponics is a sustainable food technology because it allows…
… the production of aquaculture and agricultural food, simultaneously “fusing the concepts of aquaculture (in a recirculation regime) with hydroponics (production of plants without using the soil)”. Aquaponics by combining these two techniques, totally neutralizes the individual disadvantages of each one. In aquaponics, fish, through their metabolism, produce nitrogen compounds that are used as a natural fertilizer for plants. These, in turn, grow healthily while assimilating these nutrients, cleaning the water that returns to the fish tanks. There is a closed water circuit, so there is a reuse of water, avoiding its waste and thus being able to value water in a circular economy perspective. With Fish n ‘Greens systems, it is estimated that there is a water saving of over 95% compared to the consumption of conventional aquaculture and agriculture.
Fish n ‘Greens units will be located within cities, allowing for a reduction in the carbon footprint of this production system as the transport of fish and vegetables is minimized, thereby reducing an average of 1800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. It is the true “farm to fork” concept!
The fish species used by Aquaponics Iberia are herbivores, which avoids the consumption of fish meal, which implies a reduction in the impact on wild fish stocks in the oceans. They estimate that, for each unit of Fish n ‘Greens, by producing 45 tonnes of fish annually, they will reduce the annual catches of wild fish between 135 and 225 tonnes. This is what we call “wild fish friendly”!
Other reasons why Fish n ‘Greens is a sustainable production method are the use of “clean energy” from photovoltaic panels placed on the building, the non-occupation of fertile and rich land for biodiversity, the total reuse of organic waste from the production process, the carbon sequestration generated by plants compared to that produced by fish, education for sustainability promoted by space, through training, awareness-raising and guided tours and the increase in the food sovereignty of cities.
In conclusion, for each ton of food generated in Fish n ‘Greens, a reduction in emissions of 20 tons of carbon is expected, compared to conventional production methodologies.
Aquaponics Iberia lists some of the problems they currently face, such as:
. The legislation related to aquaculture species in Portugal, is one of the most restrictive in the European Union (in neighboring Spain, the situation is much easier, and more sustainable fish species can easily be used);
. The Portuguese government is not yet aware of the enormous environmental, economic and social advantages of aquaponics. They receive strong support from the municipality where they are located (Torres Vedras), but still do not feel it at the national level;
. There are a great probability to start the first unit of the project outside Portugal, unlike what was expected, and they are currently looking for investors at European level;
. European legislation does not yet allow the biological certification of aquaponics plants, even though the inputs may all be biological. In the USA, there are already several aquaponics companies producing with organic certification (USDA Organic), contrasting with the European delay, which is reflected in the greater growth of this market in the USA.
In the European Union, Portugal is the biggest consumer of fish per capita,…
… but only 1/3 of the amount consumed comes from national fisheries and aquaculture, with the remaining 2/3 resulting from imports. Unfortunately, the European scenario is similar, with Europe depending on fish imports. With the forecast of depletion of fishing resources in the oceans less than 30 years from now, and with the growth of fish consumption, a global increase in fish protein prices is expected, with traditional exporting countries beginning to reduce exports to cope with their growing domestic demand ”.
At European and national level, there is a greater demand for healthy products (organic, natural, without pesticides, without synthetic additives …), sustainable (without environmental impacts, low emissions, without impact on biodiversity …) and local (greater convenience, greater freshness) , greater transparency, greater
trust, greater connection …), so Aquaponics Iberia believes that the project clearly meets these criteria, which are validated through surveys and interviews carried out with consumers in general, catering and health workers.
Currently, there is an unfair way of producing and marketing food,…
… as there are companies that are concerned with providing food in a sustainable way, always taking into account its environmental, social and health impact on their customers and others that profit more because they go beyond these requirements.
The change in mentality is crutial for food systems to become more sustainable, because, in practice, ”it is society in general and the planet that subsidizes and supports the costs generated by the majority of the food sector in a still linear and unsustainable economy ”. The market is not yet fully aware of the consequences of the actions of the current food systems, which, unfortunately, means that companies that pay attention to good practices and environmental ethics, have to bear higher marketing and certification costs to demonstrate their way of acting and the value of what they produce. Sometimes the production processes can also be more demanding, which leads to greater investments.
This shows how there is a need, for companies that produce and intend to produce in a sustainable manner, greater access to finance, investment support, marketing and certifications. “We do not believe in production subsidies, as companies to exist must be economically sustainable, but in these cases, the initial support to start-up, that is, investment and initial connection to the market, requires efforts that deserve support proportional to the benefit that they will bring to society, unlike the unsustainable ones, that should be taxed in favour of the others that should already be on the market, and are not because they lack the fundamental financial resources ”.
Get to know more about Aquaponics Iberia and Fish n ’Greens in:
Institutional website: www.aquaponicsiberia.com
Fish n ’Greens website: www.fishngreens.eu
Facebook: @Aquaponics Iberia
Animation video illustrating the project: https://youtu.be/YKtgkbPbvcs
More information for online aquaponic courses, for everyone who wants to try this technique at home, educational or professional level: https://www.aquaponia.digital
Aquaponics Iberia is looking for investors for the first unit of the Fish n ‘Greens project, who are interested in investing in a great market opportunity with a growing consumer trend, in a motivated team with extensive experience in the area, in sustainable and productive technology, that allows reducing costs and increasing value and return, with the replicability and scalability of the project.