Home' Smart Farmer : August 2014 Contents Smart aquaponics
SmartFarmer • August 2014
Waste sows seeds for bountiful harvest
By JACINTA ROSE
THE Riverland is renowned for its citrus
and stonefruit production, but a new
industry is proving ideally suited to the
Aquaponics -- a farming system combin-
ing the production of freshwater fish and
hydroponic vegetables -- produces high yields
and quality with low-input costs and efficient
Dominic Smith established his Pundi
Who: Dominic Smith
Business: Pundi Produce
Products: Herbs, vegetables and fish
Produce aquaponics system at Monash in May
and within nine weeks had already started
harvesting produce and developing a growing
list of happy customers.
With the help of his mentor, Andrew de
Dezsery from 1Aquaponics, Mr Smith began
with a 3000-litre tank of silver perch and a
nine metre by 9m area of hydroponic tables.
Three weeks after the fish were released into
the tank, the first crop of herbs and vegetables
He has already harvested and sold basil,
coriander and chives, with customers praising
the shelf-life, consistency and flavour of his
Some people have labelled it 'the best they've
In addition to selling direct to the public at
Riverland farmers' markets, he has been selling
to home delivery service Riverland Fresh and
local restaurants. Mr Smith has also been
value-adding by selling pesto produced using
his basil crop.
In addition to the fast-growing herbs, his
vegetable crops also include spring onions,
bok choy and various lettuces, which are all
ready to harvest.
The system is based on the utilisation of
nutrient-rich fish wastewater. This wastewater
is high in ammonia and passes through a
filtration system where bacteria converts it to
nitrates, which act as a fertiliser and are taken
up by the plant.
"What's growing our produce is basically a
waste product of fish farming," Mr de Dezsery
"Normally, this would get thrown out
because the nitrates become toxic, but here
we're removing those toxins and producing
food we can eat.
"Eighty per cent of the cashflow comes out
of the horticulture side, and that's run on our
Trout -- which thrive in cool water -- have
been added into a second tank to keep water
nutrient levels high as perch growth slows
during winter. The fish are harvested in eight
to nine months.
One of the system's biggest advantages is
its efficient use of water: in Mr Smith's case,
Central Irrigation Trust water straight out of
the River Murray.
"For a traditional crop of vegetables at, say,
Virginia, we'd be looking at 36,000 litres to
grow $100 of produce," Mr de Dezsery said.
"Hydroponics is 600L, whereas with
aquaponics it's 175L because we're reticulating
"It's been calculated out that we can grow
222 tonnes a hectare, which is absolutely
"We're recycling the nutrients all the time,
we're not losing it. When we feed the fish, it's
like putting fertiliser in, but in this case nature
breaks it down and gives us the nutrient-filled
"The food is delivered straight to the root-
zone, and it's always there, so the plant can
take up whatever nutrients it needs without
waiting for a fertiliser application."
In addition to its easy access to water, the
Riverland is ideal for aquaponic production,
thanks to its low pest and disease pressures.
While his system is still in a trial phase, Mr
Smith is planning on increasing his produc-
tion area seven-fold in the coming years.
"One of my goals is to employ young
indigenous men to give them a chance to show
their potential and keep them out of trouble,"
"To do that, I'll have to get bigger than this,
but the first stage is all about finding markets
to make a bigger scale worthwhile.
"I've decided to give it a year before expand-
ing, so I can see what happens to the plants
and the system through every season."
• Need to know more?
Visit: 1aquaponics.com.au or 08 6365 5404.
In just nine weeks, Monash grower Dominic Smith, with the help of mentor Andrew de Dezsery from 1Aquaponics, established an aquaponics system and
began harvesting fresh produce.
Spring onions produced through
The wastewater from
production of silver
perch is used to grow
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