Aquaponics farm plan for Smith’s Island

Plans to set up an aquaponics farm on Smith’s Island have been approved by the Department of Planning.

The farm, earmarked for the site of a former cottage, is described as a pilot scheme to test the viability of the farming method in Bermuda.

Aquaponic farms blend conventional aquaculture, the farming of marine animals like fish or prawns, with hydroponics, which uses water to grow plants.

The planning application, submitted by Uwe Lipfert and Dana Masters, proposed a “residential scale” facility on the island.

Their application said: “This is a pilot project to determine the scalability of this type of farming model and the layout is a proposal of potential maximum usage.

“If we achieve success and can sign a long-term lease, we will apply for commercial status.”

The farm would include a 480 square foot shaded area covering three 8ft by 8ft tanks for fish, along with 736 square feet of deep water culture troughs and a 1,152 square foot hoop house to protect vines and vertical crops.

Concerns, however were raised about who would have legislative oversight over aquaponic farms.

Technical officers said that the Agricultural Act 1930 is “very specific” about which livestock is covered, and does not include fish.

The officers said that if amendments were made, it would be likely that freshwater fish and the agricultural elements would be under the Board of Agriculture, while saltwater fish would fall under the mandate of the Marine Resources Board.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would be interested in operational matters, while the Department of Environmental Health would be involved in the sale of any products produced.

A technical officer’s assessment said: “Aquaponic farming is a form of intensive agriculture being used in many parts of the world.

“The brownfield site in Smith’s Island is considered a good location for a pilot scheme to test this form of food production.”

The Development Applications Board approved the application on November 22.