It’s hard to believe, but schools of fish are being used to grow marijuana crops on a large scale with aquaponics.
Aquaponic grow farms utilize a fascinating combination of conventional aquaculture and hydroponics to create a harmonious relationship and some incredible results.
The most common belief is that aquaponic practices began in 6th Century China to grow rice paddies. Following nature’s best practices, Chinese farmers allowed Peking ducks to remain the water where the paddies grew. The ducks would eat insects and small fish, and the fish would eat duck droppings. Then, the fish droppings would be broken down by bacteria in the water, and absorbed by the rice paddies as the final spoke in this natural ecological wheel.
Modern-day aquaponics are much more technologically advanced than their predecessors. Today’s ‘closed-loop’ systems ensure very little interference from outside sources. When combined correctly, fish and plants participate in a symbiotic co-existence that ultimately produces some fine ganja.
Warren Bravo is the Co-Owner and CEO of Green Relief, Canada’s only licensed medical marijuana producer using aquaponics. “In our facility [we have] 800-gallon tanks of tilapia, in a closed-loop, recirculating ecosystem. We feed our fish, the fish create a solid waste, and through a microbial transformation the solid waste is turned into nitrates.” Warren goes on to add that the water is then circulated through their grow beds, where the plant roots suck the nitrates out of the water. The water is then returned to the fish tanks, clean of any toxic substances that would affect the health of the fish.
The reason that this process of growing marijuana is not widely used is the steep startup expense. With all the equipment needed, not to mention the livestock, this complicated system is a pricey way to begin a cannabis venture. It does, however, provide a significant pay off in the long run.
“It absolutely is more costly than a normal soil grower, but the sustainable agriculture portion is important to our company.” Warren pointed out that he has approximately $400,000 invested in aquaponics equipment, but with this system he has no fertilizer costs. He added that if he were a traditional soil grower, his costs for fertilizer would likely be 10 – 15% of his total yearly budget.
A further added benefit of cultivating pot in this scientific swimming pool is that aquaponics growers end up with two sellable commodities — high-grade cannabis and delicious fish. “When my fish get to be a pound and a half to two pounds, I sell my fertilizer factories as I call them, and recoup my costs for the manpower and the fish food.” In the case of Green Relief, they use tilapia because it’s a “hearty fish” in high demand.
Although there are opponents to farmed fish environments, an aquaponics system requires a comfortable living space for the aquatic life to yield quality marijuana. “Our tanks are not overcrowded. Happy fish are happy plants, so you don’t want them stressed out by abuse. Everything in our system is about the fish and through osmosis our plants are healthy.”
Aquaponics has clearly come a long way since its earliest beginnings in human history. So, the next time you hit a bowl filled with Bubble Berry, remember that it may have been grown using actual bubbles … and a little help from some fish.
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