"The Innovation Award 'Vifzack 2024' demonstrates that Styrian farmers, with a lot of courage and verve, are successfully implementing lighthouse projects, thus confidently shaping the future of their farms," said Franz Titschenbacher, President of the Styrian Chamber of Agriculture, at the presentation of the top six of the Agricultural Innovation Award in the Styrian Sparkasse.
Aquafarm Temmel is among these start-ups. Owner Martin Temmel revived the decommissioned parental farm. The journey back to his agricultural roots did not go in a straight line for the former professional musician; it was a winding path. For a long time, the Song Contest participant struggled with the fact that the old cowshed on the decommissioned farm in the village of Timmersdorf stood unused. That was until the now 39-year-old, who has been "fascinated by aquariums, fish and ponds since childhood, " came across the aquaponics cycle system. In short, fish swim in a tank, and the same water is used (in a separate tank) by plants, which root into the water instead of the soil. In doing so, they clean the water and filter out nutrients.
The music teacher used the Covid period to convert the farm into an aquafarm, making the "Liesingtaler catfish" more well-known at the same time. The first of these fish were introduced in March 2021. "They come to us at about 10 grams. Then they will be with us for half a year to three-quarters of a year until they weigh 1.5 to 2 kilograms," Temmel says. Every two weeks, these catfish - fresh or smoked - are available for private customers or upscale restaurateurs. In the future, the remnants of the processed fish will be dried and turned into dog treats.
The vegetables grown (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, Swiss chard) are also available directly from the farm. Temmel sees plenty of opportunities: On the one hand, because he has not yet fully utilized the facility designed for 15 to 20 tons of fish production annually. On the other hand, the degree of self-sufficiency in Austria with fish is still in the single-digit percentage range. The big plus that the aqua farmer brings into play is the fact that these fish are 100 percent free of microplastics and antibiotics. Still, he doesn't hide the fact that 'there is still a steep learning curve in order to keep the systems balanced.'
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