What if we had the opportunity to re-imagine the global food system, making local, sustainable food the norm rather than the exception? It may seem insane, but with 9 billion people anticipated to live on our planet by 2050, it’s a must. Experts believe that global food production would need to increase by 2050, but we won’t be able to meet that demand with exponentially more land or freshwater.
As a result, the seafood industry is under increasing pressure to be environmentally and socially responsible. The fish sector is looking for sustainable solutions as standards, norms, and regulations for selling seafood products in various worldwide marketplaces rise. The use of integrated aquaculture systems, which link two or more farming operations, is one way producers are aiming to improve their sustainability profile.
Integrated aquaculture systems are effective for four reasons:
1. They are older than we imagine
Integrated aquaculture may appear to be a modern phenomenon aimed at integrating sustainability into the industry’s core. However, if we use the broadest definition of aquaculture, we can find that integrated aquaculture is almost as old as fish farming. Aquaculture as we know it now got its beginnings as an integrated concept.
China has a long history of adopting integrated fish farming methods, reaching back to the first and second century BC. This refers to the production of food by combining aquaculture, agriculture, and livestock into a single system.
2. They take an ecosystem-based approach to management.
Integrated aquaculture refers to the cultivation of many species in the same water source.
For example, Aquaponics is a type of system in which fish and plants are cultivated together and the nutrient-rich water produced by fish waste is used as fertilizer for the plants rather than being discarded (For additional information, see my Aquaponics blog). Interrelated interactions within an ecosystem, including human interactions, might help to better solve sustainability challenges.
3. They improve the efficiency of production and investment profitability.
Integrated aquaculture is a tried-and-true way to boost production efficiency. The Tilapia farms in Egypt, for example, use integrated horticulture and aquaculture systems to conserve water, which is especially important in an area that is regarded the most water-scarce. With future water warfare if the situation is not handled properly, efficient water use, such as these Tilapia farms, is critical.
Farmers in Oman, for example, were in danger of losing their source of income due to regular storms and seawater intrusion until integrated aquaculture systems were introduced to improve their production efficiencies and thus their economic status. Aquaculture is currently at the forefront of industries tasked with diversifying Oman’s economy by 2040, with an even humbler goal of helping to improve sustainability measurements and standards for all parties involved.
4. It forms the foundation for Climate Smart Aquaculture (CSA)
Using integrated aquaculture as a strategy not only boosts output productivity and efficiency in a long-term sustainable way, but it also helps to reduce the sector’s vulnerability and resistance to climate change.
Encouragement of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture, or IMTA, a revolutionary approach of producing finfish alongside shellfish like oysters and marine plants like seaweeds, is one of the primary strategies now being implemented. Surprisingly, we’re seeing more and more of this system in various ways.
COVID-19 continues to uncover flaws in the structure of our food systems, putting food security at risk. We must ensure that we not only keep our promise to seek to end world hunger by 2030, but that we do so while also considering the environment and the legacy we leave for future generations. Advancing integrated aquaculture regulations, research, and technology adoption on a larger scale will be crucial.