Food, fish & water: Learning how to feed the world in a different way - Bridgwater & Taunton College

It is always an exciting prospect embarking on a Land-based project at Bridgwater College’s Cannington Centre. Over the last couple of years we have been planning and implementing a new Aquaponics Centre located in the Botantical Glasshouse at The Walled Gardens of Cannington.

Aquaponics: What is that? Well, aquaponics is one of the ways we will be able to provide food for those in areas where there is a shortage of water or poor soils. In the United States it is already a growing industry and across the world many people are seeing this form of production as a solution to food shortages. Interest in using aquaponics is expanding especially to produce food closer to the consumer, particularly in urban areas. However, at present 81% of aquaponics production is focussed in USA. There is a fantastic opportunity for developing systems in the UK which is driving our research here.

By using fish and their waste products we have built a comprehensive system where those waste products are used as the fertiliser to grow food crops, using only this waste and water which is pumped through a complex system of growing trays. The roots settle happily into the water, taking up the nutrients they need and the crops thrive. The water then returns to the fish tank clean. A complete closed system which in time becomes very sustainable.

During, our pilot scheme last summer we were able to provide salad crops to the doorstep of The Walled Gardens of Cannington’s Tea Room. Next we will be providing fresh fish alongside the salads.

The new Aquaponics Centre is now nearing completion with the fish happy and thriving in their new custom-built tank and new crops are being sown for the coming season. The project is a joint one between the College’s Horticulture and Fisheries departments. This kind of co-operation means our students can experience a wide range of different skill-sets and we are already engaging students in future research on how we can improve and develop the resource.

As one of the main developers of this system alongside my fisheries colleague Hayley Wood, I am proud that we as a College are able to demonstrate how we can be in the forefront of technology when it comes to the worlds of fish and food! I have no doubt that over the coming years it will attract both new students and others wishing to know more about aquaponics to the College.

This exciting project is all part of the bigger picture of land-based provision at our Cannington Centre where we aim to provide as wide a range of skills, as possible, for gaining employment in horticulture, forestry, fisheries, countryside management and floristry. If you would like some further information about the provision we offer please contact our Information and Guidance team on 01278 441234.

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