Gårdsfisk – Circular on-farm aquaculture
Aiming to make aquaculture sustainable, Gårdsfisk has created a system that integrates land-based fish farming with traditional crop production.
As practiced today, both aquaculture and wild fisheries are detrimental to the environment. While overfishing is driving wild species to extinction, intense aquaculture pollutes natural habitats with its wastewater. Since cultivating fish under controlled or semi-natural conditions has now surpassed that of commercial wild fishing, it’s vital to ensure that it doesn't continue to destroy natural ecosystems.
FAO projects that fish will continue to be one of the most important protein sources to feed the world’s growing population. Unregulated, aquaculture's boom could vastly increase both freshwater demand and pollution of waterways as wastewater effluents are discharged from farms to rivers and oceans. The highly polluting, water-exigent nature of intensive inland fish farming could become a major constraint on future food production, particularly in areas that already suffer from dry conditions. Additionally, aside from Norway, the bulk of inland fish farming producers, operate in low- and middle-income countries, making the sustainability challenge an economic one as well.
Profitable and environmentally friendly aquaculture
Gårdsfisk has created a closed, on-farm aquaculture system designed to reduce environmental impacts, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and integrate crop production. The process monitors water quality and energy use and recycles wastewater to prevent eutrophication – the accumulation of nutrients that causes algal blooms and depletes oxygen in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Gårdsfisk avoids this downstream pollution plaguing conventional aquaculture by recycling 95% of its fish tanks’ residual, nutrient-rich water for agricultural use. The self-contained, land-based system also protects wild fish species from the diseases and parasites that affect conventional cultured fish, as well as their gene pools.
The Swedish company currently sells catfish and black and red Nile tilapia. It explicitly chose all three species because they feed on a 75% vegetarian diet, are robust, and require no antibiotics and little space. They also mature fast, making their breeding more energy-efficient than other cultivated species.
Marine Scientist Johan Ljungquist and Engineer Mikael Olenmark established Gårdsfisk in 2013 to “cultivate the world’s most sustainable freshwater fish and improve Swedish food production across the board.” The two young entrepreneurs have experiences from the fishing industry and the water- and energy fields. The duo works on a contract basis with Swedish farmers to help them increase their profitability through aquaculture, supplying them with know-how and spawn. They then buy back mature fish to fillet, mince, or smoke in Gårdsfisk’s own facilities.