Sustainable Value-Chains: Aquaponics in Colombia

Project summary

Aquaculture is a promising sector to support livelihoods in decades long conflict-stricken Caquetá, in the Amazonian bioregion of Southern Colombia. Currently, aquaculture takes place moderately with over 400 small-scale farmers. Conservation of water resources in the region is a priority due to recent climatic phenomena. Aquaculture in Colombia is particularly challenging as the country’s vast ecosystem diversity and current water regulations requires technology development beyond a one-size-fits-all model for sustainable development. Currently, farmers use open pond systems for aquaculture, which are characterized as the less controlled and less environmentally friendly technology. A viable alternative for vulnerable agro-ecological regions is aquaponics. This is a closed loop clean tech aquaculture production system where fish’s waste is used as nutrients for growing vegetables offering potential to increase fish production and food security, and radically reduce water consumption while creating incentives for environmental compliance.

To ensure that aquaponics technology fosters improvement of the local socioenvironmental conditions, its development must come accompanied with research on overcoming barriers in the fish farming value-chain. While some barriers are associated directly to fish production, such as of fish/vegetable mass production, water consumption, nutrient mass reduction capacity, fish feed availability and access to markets, others are related to sociocultural aspects of fish farmers (i.e. conflict victims, poverty). This project addresses key issues on water resources for aquaculture by researching in water-optimizing sustainable models for small-scale fish farming to improve rural livelihoods. The project focuses on reducing water use and nutrient discharge; food security; using endogenous Amazonian fish; integrating aquaponics with other livelihoods in the area; and, overcoming value-chain barriers for production upscaling.


Midterm report
Fish and plant species for aquaculture and hydroponics systems identified. Nitrogen and phosphorous excretion in relation to diet composition determined for pacu. Removal rates of aquaponics system determined. Surveys completed, data stored and 2 reports, 1 draft paper and 1 conference presentation completed. Agricultural by-products screened, but none found suitable for feed production. Surveying for other ingredients ongoing. Establishment of water quality characterisation procedures at farms completed, and researchers trained in methods. Researcher training ongoing at DTU. Small scale hydroponics system establihed at DTU, and 2 systems constructed and running at ACUICA.

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