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Berlin to go, english edition, 01/2018

  • Text
  • Cleantech
  • Gardening
  • Berlin
  • Fintech
  • Urban
  • Startups
  • Aquaponics

TALK OF THE TOWN

TALK OF THE TOWN AQUAMAZING! Text: Eva Scharmann Aquaponics combines aquaculture with hydroponics – and helps the city achieve greater sustainability Roughly half of the fish consumed worldwide is produced using a system of fish farming called aquaculture. While controlled fish farming protects against overfishing, it also creates new problems such as the pollution of large quantities of water. One ray of hope for a more sustainable form of food production is aquaponics. And one particularly promising solution can now be found in Berlin: Nicolas Leschke, CEO of Ecofriendly Farmsystems (ECF), talks about the symbiosis of fish and vegetables and the advantages offered by food production in the middle of the city. 18

Photos: ECF Farmsystems GmbH EVERYBODY KNOWS WHAT AQUACULTURE IS. BUT WHAT DOES AQUAPONICS INVOLVE? Nicolas Leschke: The term is a portmanteau of the word aquaculture, which involves the farming of organisms living in water – here in Germany, that means freshwater fish – and hydroponics, which is the cultivation of vegetables, fruits and herbs in a greenhouse. Plants grow on substrates, such as expanded clay or coconut fibers, and are irrigated. The combination of the two allows us to create a loop system that makes it possible to farm and cultivate fish and vegetables symbiotically. Our system is both economical and resource efficient. YOUR FARM IN BERLIN-SCHÖNEBERG DEMONSTRATES HOW THIS WORKS? Exactly. Our focus lies on the planning and construction of aquaponic farm systems. Operating our own farm has allowed us to build up a wealth of expertise while also making it possible for us to demonstrate the advantages of the ECF system “on living creatures.” But our farm is more than just a reference object; we also produce fish and vegetables here on an area of 1,800 square meters. These days, thousands of cichlids grow to maturity over the course of eight months here in 13 big tanks – this means up to 30 tons of fish per year. The aquaponic “Capital City Basil” grown here at the ECF Farm Berlin has also been available in all REWE markets in Berlin and Brandenburg since last year. WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO CO-FOUND ECF FARMSYSTEMS TOGETHER WITH CHRISTIAN ECHTERNACHT IN 2014? Good food and sustainability. I was fascinated immediately by the concept of aquaponics, even though the pilot system didn’t work very well at the time. But it sparked my entrepreneurial spirit, and probably also the inventor in me. It’s what made allowed a strategy coach and an agency owner to transform themselves into aquaponics farmers … WHY DID YOU FOUND YOUR COMPANY AND THE FIRST AQUAPONICS FARM IN BERLIN OF ALL PLACES? Berlin is a city that offers inspiration and the opportunity to try new things. The former molasses factory in Schöneberg is listed as a histo- The cichlids are farmed in large tanks. rical monument and fit our purposes perfectly. It has emerged as a site brimming with creativity, culture and environmentally-conscious thinking. Plus, by setting up our farm in the middle of the city, we wanted to show that sustainable food production can work close to consumers – with short transport routes and cold chains. This makes for fresh products and also protects the environment at the same time. ANY OTHER EXAMPLES OF SUSTAINABILITY? Our aim is to produce food with a maximum level of resource efficiency. Aquaponics uses the same water to produce fish and plants alike. This drastically reduces the so-called “water footprint.” The production of food in an ECF aquaponics farm consumes 90% less water than in conventional agriculture. We can increase resource efficiency even further by swapping the CO 2 -rich air from the aquaculture with that from the greenhouse and by using rainwater from cisterns. The combination of aquaculture and hydroponics also has economic advantages, seeing as the system uses less freshwater and plant fertilizer. THE FISH FERTILIZE THE PLANTS? Yes. The fish release ammonium through their gills. In a special aquaculture filter, the ammonium dissolved in water is converted into nitrate and can replace a large part of the commonly required fertilizer in hydroponics. WHERE DOES ONE FIND OTHER AQUAPO- NIC FARMS BUILT ACCORDING TO THE ECF SYSTEM? In Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. Most recently, a company commissioned us to build a 2,400 square meter aquaponics farm on a rooftop in the heart of Brussels. 19

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