A food bank that grows its own lettuce and fish
The Mississauga Food Bank, in Ontario, recently launched an aquaponics farm so it could offer fresh food to those living in poverty.
Aquaponics is a technique that combines aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil). The fish produce nutrient-rich water, which is used to fertilize the plants. In turn, the plants filter and clean the water, which is reused for raising the fish. Aquaponics seemed like a viable solution for the Mississauga Food Bank, since the organization’s activities were at risk due to the relative lack of farms in the region.
In a little over a month, the Mississauga Food Bank launched AquaGrow Farms, its very own aquaponics farm and a first in Ontario. The water from the fish tanks is used to grow the greens, producing approximately 40 heads of lettuce per week. The roots dangle in this water, which contains a high level of fertilizer from the waste produced by the black Nile and silver tilapia. In this closed-loop system, the plants clean the water for the fish, which after six months, should reach approximately one kilo. The food bank hopes to start distributing its first batch of fish around the end of March.
The directors of the Mississauga Food Bank hope their experience will encourage other food banks to embrace the aquaponics model, since it doesn’t require much space and is ideal for urban areas with limited access to agriculture. In 2016, there were close to 90,000 visits to the Mississauga Food Bank. Mississauga is Canada’s sixth largest city, with a population of 720,000 people. The organization estimates it will produce, each year, approximately 600 servings of fish and 11,000 servings of greens, which will be distributed to hungry people in the community.
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