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Experiment of KU Researchers: Shall We be Growing Vegetables in Lithuania with the Help of Fish?

KU researchers are implementing an experimental project in 10 Lithuanian farms and are thus taming aquaponics, a new, economically and ecologically promising business area which has already been for some time successfully implemented in Germany, Belgium, Norway, Great Britain, Spain and other countries open to progress and innovation.

KU project teamprof. dr. Asta Klimienė, prof. Ramutis Klimas, and junior researcher Gintautas Narvilas installed 10 experimental prototypical aquaponics systems at the end of 2020. They are maintained and monitored, and experiments with both the selection of plant and fish species and changes in their living conditions are carried out there. The project will be completed next year, and its systematised material and methodological advice will be the basis for allowing Lithuanian businesses to better understand and develop aquaponics.

An aquaponics system is a technology and a process in which fish and plants are raised together. It is a symbiotic operation of two systems: plants live and grow thanks to fish, and fish partly due to plants. Bacteria play a major role in this process, breaking down the ammonia released by fish into nitrites and nitrates available to plants. The aquaponics system guarantees the production of two valuable and high-quality foods (certain fish and vegetables) in one, space-saving location.

The team of Noras LT, a company operating in the village of Letukai in Klaipėda district which raises and supplies fish to the market, monitors the experiment taking place in their area and does not rule out that aquaponics will become one of the new fish farming businesses in the near future. “We are thinking about it and collecting information. For the fourth year in a row, we have been raising and marketing the Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), a freshwater fish of the salmon family, that usually lives in cold and extremely clean waters. If we could reconcile the needs of this species of fish and find the plants compatible with them, we could talk about the practical implementation of aquaponics,” says Karolis Dignaitis, production manager of UAB Noras LT.

Project manager prof. dr. Asta Klimienė says that the aquaponics system offers a number of opportunities.. It can be installed indoors, or open water bodies can be adapted for the purpose. “We are now experimenting with different species of fish. Here, in the village of Letukai, an experimental chain of fish and plant raising in a closed space has been created, the essential condition of which is cold water, necessary for the Arctic char. In Skuodas district, we have a system in which sturgeons, which like warmer water, saturate the water with the organic matter needed by plants. The experience of foreign countries shows that this methodology can be applied to other species farmed in an artificial environment,” says dr. Klimienė. According to her, the biggest problem so far has been the search for seeds of food plants that do not go dormant during winter.

The experiments of the researchers should reveal the economic part of the methodology, all its pros and cons. Of the ten businesses currently involved in the project, one-fifth are seriously considering implementation of the innovation.

Aquaponics is one of the advanced fields of biotechnology that KU researchers specialise in. The development of science and innovation-based biotechnologies is considered to be one of the potential driving forces of economic progress in Klaipėda city and region.