Sustainability | Ecotrope

Move Over, Backyard Chickens; Make Way For Homegrown Tilapia

Ecotrope | Oct. 5, 2012 6:37 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:29 p.m.

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Tilapia grow from fry to market size in less than a year, and they're easily farmed because they eat just about anything. That makes them a good option for people looking to grow their own seafood in home aquaponics systems.

Tilapia grow from fry to market size in less than a year, and they're easily farmed because they eat just about anything. That makes them a good option for people looking to grow their own seafood in home aquaponics systems.

Rick Boatner has picked up on an emerging trend in the local food movement: People who want to grow their own seafood.

Boatner is the invasive species and wildlife integrity coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. He says his agency has gotten enough interest from people wanting to raise their own tilapia at home to justify creating a set of rules for them to follow.

“They want to get into organic raising of fish so they know where their food comes from also to be more self sufficient,” said Boatner. “It’s not going to be a huge industry, but it’s getting to be more popular.”

The state already has rules for commercial tilapia producers, but they don’t allow for people to grow tilapia for their own personal consumption. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted today on rules that make it easier for people to raise tilapia for themselves at home.

Jason Garvey, owner Portland Purple Water, is growing lettuce in an aquaponics system behind his storefront in Beaverton. Fish such as tilapia deliver nutrients to the plants in their poop, and the plants clean the water for a mutually beneficial food-growing system.

Jason Garvey, owner Portland Purple Water, is growing lettuce in an aquaponics system behind his storefront in Beaverton. Fish such as tilapia deliver nutrients to the plants in their poop, and the plants clean the water for a mutually beneficial food-growing system.

Under the new rules, a person who wants to grow their own tilapia will need a $12 transportation permit to pick up their fish from a licensed dealer, and they’ll have to have a heated system to contain them at home.

Tilapia grow from fry to marketable size in less than a year, Boatner said. So they’re a good source of quick-growing protein, and they work well with hydroponic plants in self-contained food-growing systems called aquaponics.

I’ve written about aquaponics before. Portland Purple Water is really excited about the dual veggie and fish growing operations. They’re working on setting up an aquaponics system on contaminated industrial land within the Portland Harbor Superfund site. There’s also a giant aquaponics project in a Chicago warehouse that would feed the fish on spent grain from the brewery on site and serve homegrown veggies in a locavore restaurant. Now it seems the idea is catching on among backyard farmers.

Anyone out there giving aquaponics a try at home? Serving up your own homegrown tilapia would be nifty, but I imagine it’s quite a bit of work to get to that point.

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