SA’s Giant Aquaponics Facility Opens Doors.

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By Kenneth Matimaire

SOUTH African firm Integrated Aquaculture (Pvt) Ltd’s biggest aquaponics facility has finally commenced operations following eight months of construction despite setbacks induced by the coronavirus pandemic.

The technically advanced facility is a partnership between Integrated Aquaculture and German based Desertfoods International GmbH (limited liability company) that was reached in last year.

The aquaponics facility located on a farm in Hekpoort, Gauteng Province – north-west of Johannesburg, boasts of water-saving and year round farming practice, which is 10 times more productive that open field agriculture.

It has annual harvest capacity of up to 200 tons of nutritious, local and organically cultivated multi-crop veggie and fresh-water fish produce.

Integrated Aquaculture founder and chief executive officer Lance Alexander Quiding expressed gratitude to the massive investment by Desertfoods International.

“We greatly appreciate the mid 7-digit foreign direct investment of Desertfoods International and the ongoing trust of the German crowd in our team and our beloved country. It fills us with pride to partner with like-minded Desertfoods International to accelerate the implementation of our vision and ambitious growth strategy,” said Quiding.

Quiding has played a major role in the development of the aquaponics industry by sitting on the executive of both the Tilapia Aquaculture Association of South Africa (TAASA) and the Aquaponic Association of South Africa (AASA).

He previously acted as designer and implementor of two turn-key aquaponics training facilities successfully established for a South Africa-based youth employment programme and also regularly advised a Johannesburg-based AgriPark.

Desertfoods International co-founder and managing director Karsten Jansen they are also looking into the implementation of multi-faceted aquaponics farming and training projects in other parts of the country.

“Based on the milestones achieved at Hekpoort Farm, representing the debut project for us in Southern Africa, we are currently busy incorporating South Africa-based FinLeaf Farms (Pty) Limited with the implementation of multi-faceted aquaponics farming and training projects in other parts of the country as core business objective.

“Along with those endeavours we are aiming to make further progress with the piloting of the next-generation aquaponics system at the on-site R&D center next to offering live-practical training courses to third parties at Hekpoort Farm with the training campus soon to be inaugurated. The partnership with Integrated Aquaculture represents a role model for us to establishing similar setups in neighboring countries and even beyond, i.e. in the entire SADC area,” said Jansen.

The GAP certified facility aquaponics facility at Hekpoort Farm currently grows baby leaf spinach, spring onions, Batavia frilly lettuce, chives, mint and water cress.

The farming team led by farm manager, Mapopa Phiri Gwengo also have in-depth farming experiences with pak choi, kale (flat and curly), celery and almost any type of fancy lettuce from butter to cos.

The weekly harvest capacity is in the range of 20,000 units of organically cultivated greens.

The new facility aims to expedite the paradigm change in SA’s agriculture sector in line with its government’s master plan in terms of food safety and security, responsible and water-wise farming, hands-on education and employment.

The farming approach applied fulfills almost all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it provides a substantial contribution especially towards achieving local food security, showcasing technology, enabling knowledge transfer, innovation, job creation and good health and well-being.

Aquaponics links the cultivation of green or fruit-crop plants in a water-based (soilless) media that is rich in nutrients with the land-based breeding of fish species such as Nile Tilapia or Catfish.

According to internationally acknowledged industry experts the aquaponics cycle is the safest, most water efficient, cleanest and most sustainable way to farm fresh vegetable produce and fresh fish.