The first in our series begins with an experimental set up by the manager of the Victory Country Ministry of Food Production Office, Saleem.
Though there are many tasks for this agricultural office which services the urban to rural area of Princess Town in south Trinidad, Saleem understands the importance of research and development.
Operating on an aquaponics system, Saleem planned and established the station by using very little space, thoughtfully placing the tank of tilapia fish, the locally preferred species for the craft underneath its raised hydroponics bed.
What is more striking however is the variety of items being grown in this one station.
The set up has lettuce, the most common of crops grown on hydroponic systems as well as chadon beni (cilantro), thyme, watercress, parsley and to one’s disbelief a full sized tomato plant laden with growing produce.
The set up combines hydroponic pvc pipe lines which feed the lettuce and patchoi, in addition to a gravel bed which provide a steady base for the root systems of the other herbs/spices and the tomatoes.
As expected both the lines and the gravel bed are supplied by the half barrel tank of tilapia beneath the frame of the structure.
The structure itself was built by Saleem and his team giving node to the design and construction skill set using easy to access material.
Drainage from the lines and the gravel bed flow back into the tialpia tank after providing rich nutrients to the plants closing the cycle and ensuring stable growth.
Saleem and company are testing to see which vegetables/herbs grow best in the system; a simple set up with an important goal as many aquaponics and hydroponic producers usual grow one major crop.
By proving that multiple crops can grow in the same system, it is possible that this ‘aquaponic intercropping’ can assist in the prevention of pests or bacteria, if any as some herbs can act as a deterrent. This notion requires further research and development.
Additionally producers that grow multiple crops will then have multiple sources of income, as the risk of failure of the system followed by the loss of a mono-crop is reduced.
Saleem’s efforts are directly beneficial to farmers due to his standing within the local ministry’s office. The initiative is of his doing meaning him and his team qualify as ‘innocentive’