A Little Perspective on the Growth of Aquaponics

The awareness of and enthusiasm for aquaponics is beginning to snowball.  Every day I see new references to aquaponics, new blog posts, articles and media attention.  I am glad to see this and find it encouraging that so many people are recognizing the potential of aquaponics.  But, unfortunately, there is also a great deal of misinformation being written, blogged and printed about aquaponics.

Our company, Nelson and Pade, Inc., which has been in aquaponics and controlled environment agriculture for 20+ years, has gotten and continues to get a lot of press for the things we have achieved.   There are also many new organizations, typically with only a couple of years of experience (and sometimes even less) that are in the headlines as well.  And, often, these people new to aquaponics neglect to acknowledge the history and research that has preceded them.  It might be new technology to them, but it is not new technology.  Dr. Rakocy and his associates at the University of the Virgin Islands, as well as other research scientist around the world, have been researching and helping to develop this technology for over 30 years.

A number of these aquaponics start-ups appear to be in the business of using the buzz around aquaponics to entice investors rather than growing food or to convince you that their “new” invention of aquaponics is the solution to all of the world’s problems.  I have seen these schemes emerge in a big way in the past year.

So, my advice is: buyer beware.    Before you move forward with an aquaponic company, foundation or non-profit who wants to recruit you as an investor, provide you information, or sell you something; be sure to check them out, look for actual achievements and make sure they have hands-on, real-life success in aquaponics.

As new aquaponics organizations sprout up, some with websites showing nothing more than drawings and concepts and others grabbing headlines, we are busy building, shipping and installing systems that are operating and providing food for people of all walks of life.  In the past year Nelson and Pade, Inc. has built and shipped 20 complete aquaponic systems to commercial growers, hobbyists, mission groups, Universities and schools and we have taught over 200 people from 28 states and 12 countries about aquaponics in our comprehensive workshops.  We are out there making it happen on both a large and small scale, in developed and developing countries.

In case you are wondering about the history and experience of Nelson and Pade, Inc., visit our history page for rundown of some of our achievements over the last 25 years.

Imagine this…

As the wheels of the plane lifted from the gravel runway/roadway in Port a Paix, Haiti last week, I gazed out the window. I saw donkeys, goats and people scurrying out of the way; homes, buildings and banana trees whizzing by. I saw the streets of Port a Paix littered with debris, the buildings ramshackled and the blue Caribbean Sea gleaming in the sun. I have been to most Caribbean islands and numerous developing nations. I expected the worst in Haiti, but really saw nothing more extreme than other developing countries I’ve been to. And I saw promise.

I felt both saddened and inspired at the current state of affairs in Haiti. The poverty and misfortunate I’d heard so much about was prevalent but, in contrast, was the unstoppable human spirit, hard work and gentle nature of the Haitian people. Overall, I felt incredibly confident that Haiti will emerge in the coming years as a force to be reckoned with. As elections take place there this month, there is great hope that a government will be voted in that will empower the people rather than suppress them. Bill Clinton is a proponent of development in Haiti and I believe Capitalism will win out in this tropical country that has been home to natural disasters, corruption and poverty in recent years.

Imagine the year 2030, just 20 quick years from now. The Haiti I see has infrastructure. The burgeoning economy can fund roads, clean water and sewer systems. Reforestation will reduce erosion and those who are unable to work will be fed. The growing job sector includes labor and management in aquaponic greenhouses. Haiti is exporting fresh food – tilapia and fresh vegetables – throughout the Caribbean and to North America. The tourism industry embraces this beautiful island and Haiti becomes a scuba diving and vacation destination.

Haitians are very hard working people and a job means food and security for an individual and their family. I see agriculture, industry and tourism as the primary growing economic sectors. The potential is there, the people are eager for work and there are, surprisingly, still vast natural resources and a nearly untouched reef system skirting the island.

I see aquaponics as a key component to the new Haiti. Just as Haitians went from no phones to cell phones, I believe they will go from minimal agricultural infrastructure to massive aquaponic greenhouses that will provide jobs, food and profit to help the country feed itself and grow.

I believe this first step, an aquaponic system of our design, funded by and installed at the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission in St. Louis De Nord, will be the impetus, the training ground and the launch of aquaponics in Haiti. It might even be the new beginning of agriculture in Haiti, and part of a new, prosperous Haiti. This is my vision and one that I think is truly possible.

This vision might sound foolish and naïve as you watch the news. Haiti still has 1.3 million people homeless as a result of the earthquake less than a year ago. While we were there in late October, a cholera outbreak began that will likely continue for years to come. Just days ago, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Thomas, adding to the misery of so many Haitian people. But the pendulum does swing both ways. Although not the case now, thirty years ago Haiti had hotels, tourism and agriculture. Forty years ago, the Vietnam War was at its peak. The country was ravaged, the people devastated and the landscape was littered with mines. Today you can visit Vietnam as a tourist and be welcomed while enjoying the culture, food and hospitality of this renewed country. Today you can buy goods at Wal-Mart that were made in Vietnam. Today, the sharpest edges of the Vietnam War have been softened by time.

Can a similar transformation happen in Haiti? Time will tell. I believe it can.

Check out photos from this trip at: http://www.facebook.com/nelsonandpade

Getting Inside Aquaponics with Nelson and Pade, Inc.

Fish Farming News
By Bob Robinson

An excerpt from the article

Montello, WI – Early this past summer I took a fun round trip to this small hamlet not far from my home to visit the headquarters of aquaponics educators and innovators, Nelson and Pade, Inc.

As many of you already know, company principles Rebecca Nelson and John Pade have worked extensively within the hydroponic and aquaponic industries for over 20 years.

Their impressive new faciity has been specifically desinged to educate the public concerning the benefits of aquaponics, to demonstrate the technology needed for an effective aquaponic system and to provide a working model for hands-on learning.

Nelson and Pade, Inc. offers complete growing systems, while also providing the supporting supplies for many applications including: hobby, home food production, education commercial and research.

Read the full article