“We believe that not just Luxembourg, but most of the world is both ready and asking for a system such as ours,” says Manuel Arrillaga with Fësch Haff in Luxembourg. Together with his co-founder Daryl Fuchs, he recently launched a start-up company with the aim of farming both vegetables and fish in a sustainable manner. Fuchs and Arrillage met at university, and although both have different areas of expertise - materials science versus bio-engineering - they decided to start their aquaponics journey together.
All photos by Nina Ruppert
“We had a common interest in seafood. One night while having drinks with friends, we talked about how cool it would be to grow our own lobsters. That idea stuck with me, as aquarium fish keeping is a great hobby of mine. From my experience studying for my Bachelor's in Biomedical Engineering, I remembered some hydroponic trials and aquaculture experiments some colleagues and I had done. After some research through the academic literature, I came across the idea of aquaponics, which could be the solution to keep, and farm, a lobster, like those in the Cherax family we cultivate now.”
Although Daryl and Manuel were a bit skeptical initially, the idea stayed alive and they decided to test it out in their dorms. “From there, we kept trying different technologies, techniques, fish and plant combinations, until we created our very own unique tropical water systems.”
Currently, they have several different systems running. “Our main system is our indoor cold-water, vertical-stacked trout and leafy greens system. This system is perfectly suited for rainbow trout as well as a variety of lettuces, herbs, and regional fruits. The system utilizes solar panels, LEDs, and climate control systems. It can produce anywhere from 50-60 lettuces per week as well as a variety of herbs and can hold a total of 25 kg of trout at any given point.”
The second system is an experimental tropical-water system that grows lobsters and tropical fruits. “It helps us keep our own freshwater lobsters in separate tanks so we can study them, their behavior, and control their breeding and life cycles. It also produces a variety of hot peppers like habaneros and anaheim, as well as cucumbers, turmeric, strawberries, and some other rotating crops. We also have a small-scale home-garden-sized greenhouse system that keeps goldfish and grows a modest amount of lettuces for the home grower. Finally, we have some small-scale at-home systems perfect for aquarium lovers who also want to keep their water quality in check and have some herbs and lettuces ready whenever.”
With this broad range of products, it comes as no surprise that the company feels confident about the future of aquaponics in Luxembourg. “Aquaponic technology allows any group of people, communities, farmers, even governments, to take control of their food production in a more sustainable, and locally-focused manner. With our proprietary systems, an all-year-round food production schedule is easily maintained, with high-quality and nutritious fish and crops. Currently, billions of euros go into the business of mass-producing aquarium and pond fish, with no regard for their waste produced, and where that waste ends up. Our systems could be a healthy alternative in this sector.”
Right now, the company is focused on selling their produce, and the idea of aquaponic-grown produce to their community, but in the coming years they will be launching their at-home growing system and vertical-stacked container systems. “As technology developers, we are focused on making aquaponics not just efficient, but affordable. We have three main goals as producers of food technologies: to be local, sustainable, and energy/resource-efficient. From that aim, we design and sell affordable and efficient aquaponic farms to Luxembourg and beyond. In the future, we aim to see Fesch Haff aquaponic farms, and produce, in all Luxembourgish homes and restaurants.”