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Connecting food production systems: aquaculture and algae cultivation

Fish farming and vegetable growing are quite suitable to be combined: together they can form an innovative agri-food chain. A Mexican greenhouse horticulture company wants to explore the options for such a circular system, and preferably also integrate it with algae cultivation. The Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs Business Unit of Wageningen University & Research, together with colleagues from Food & Biobased Research and Livestock Research, investigated the technical feasibility of setting up such a new company structure.

United Farms – Finka in Queretaro, Mexico is a larger, innovative grower with several locations where mainly tomatoes and cucumbers are produced in greenhouses. A few years ago, the company started the Algaelinkages project together with WUR in which microalgae were cultivated using the drain water from the greenhouses. Those algae were used as an addition to chicken feed in order to produce Omega-3 enriched eggs. The project not only focused on healthy and sustainable food, but also on the efficient use of water.

The Mexican company wants to use its water even more efficiently, by using the drain water from the greenhouses also for aquaponics. WUR researchers from Plant Research, Food & Biobased Research, and Livestock Research joined forces and (based on a desktop study) investigated whether the combination of vegetable farming - fish farming - algae farming is technically feasible at United Farms – Finka.

The research shows that the combination is technically feasible, but that the fish farming facility must be placed before the greenhouse in the production chain, instead of after it. This has to do with the required water quality for fish and the efficient reuse of nutrients from fish farming for the crop in the greenhouse. The algae could be grown on both the drain water from the greenhouse and water from the fish farm. A possible follow-up study would delve deeper into the economic feasibility and possible business cases of the food production chain.

For more information:
Wageningen University & Research 


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