Fish farming in a roof garden, so they farm in Brussels

Belgian architect Steven Beckers, after several EU projects, really turned to urban farming in 2015, when he founded BIGH (Building Integrated Greenhouses). The method was not invented by his company, in fact, with a major initial investment, such as in the back garden can also be combined with an aquaponic system, yet with 4,000 square meters, the BIGH farm in Brussels is currently the largest in Europe.

Aquapony is actually a combination of aquaculture (aquaculture) and hydropony, that is, the cultivation of plants in water. A specially symbiosis system where the water circulated is continuously recycled in its entirety except for natural evaporation. Precisely because of its water conservation, the system was originally invented for Africa’s food problems.

The temperature needed to maintain it is around the Equator, but the conditions can be easily created in the middle of a city, you just need to know what to look for. Beckers in an interview with the Associated Press saidthat the biggest problem with farming is that it also costs a lot of manpower and energy to work. In urban economies, he also began to think because he thought it was easier and better to get both resources here.

Wasteless cycle

BIGH in Brussels, for example, has found an ideal location on top of the butcher complex in the old sticker market. The meat and fish market, which runs under the name Foodmet, occupies 1,000 square meters of freezers 24 hours a day, generating a lot of excess energy that the roof farm can use directly to heat their greenhouses or cool their fish pools.

Both systems require precise temperature control, which is of course controlled by machines, and the energy required for maintenance is mostly provided by a large amount of solar panels installed on the roofs. The elements of the system are built on top of each other, so the quality of the closed circuit is extremely reliable.

To avoid water wastage, the farm uses a so-called recirculation aquaculture system, which filters the water from the fish farming tanks again and again, the plants absorb the nutrients from it and then return it to the system. With this technique, they use more than 95 percent less water than if they worked the traditional way.

Natural return

The tanks are farmed exclusively for salmon, reminiscent of salmon, with pink flesh, which can be attributed quite simply to their color. The feed itself is, by the way, the largest edition of the farm, its ingredients are also found in salmon habitats, but even so, “salmon trout,” is much cheaper than the classic fish, so they say Brussels chefs prefer to switch to the local variety.

Trout, however, are by no means the main source of income for the place before they are on the table, swimming in breeding tanks for roughly ten to eleven months. Once the fish’s solid feces are removed, the water goes into a biofilter, where a bacterial culture converts the toxic ammonia in the fish’s urine into nitrates, an excellent “fertilizer” for the growing roots.

The tanks are separated by only a narrow corridor from the two-story-high greenhouse, where the cherry tomatoes are run. It is important that neither fish receive antibiotics nor use any herbicides or worms to control the plants. Medicines would kill the cleaning bacteria and the killer would harm the bees doing the pollination, the closed system guarantees chemical-free products.

In addition to tomatoes, chilies, white and purple eggplants, smaller fruits such as blackcurrants and strawberries are grown. The life cycle of the herbs located above the fish tanks is particularly fast. These are on a few square meters of rolling trays, which allow optimal use of space in each case.

The trays are filled with purified fish water from taps placed along the greenhouse, and basil, for example, can be sold within five weeks of being placed. Due to the predictability of the conditions and the large amount, this is what brings the most benefits to the farm, which has a total annual income of about 7-800 thousand euros (at the current exchange rate of 300 million forints).

Slow ripening

As good as wasteless gardening sounds, it’s still just enough to make them unprofitable. The Brussels roof farm was completed by 2018 and the start-up funding was due to semi-EU capital. Asked by, one of the farm’s managers, Mathias de Vos, said that they would start selling trout more widely this year and expect a breakthrough from that.

For the time being, BIGH in Brussels only sells its products locally, but the roof farm set up on top of Foodmet is just the beginning, as it covers only one corner of the huge market area. The founder, Beckers, thinks a lot and wants to surround the original great hall over time with similar buildings and projects, if not the same, but similarly sustainable initiatives.

Slaughterhouse plan with Foodmet building in the lower left corner

Slaughterhouse plan with Foodmet building in the lower left corner

Picture: Abattoir

However, the improvements will not materialize overnight, even the original mesterterv it is also worth thinking in 10-20 years not to disrupt the current market activities. The first steps in this large-scale project were the creation of Foodmet and an aquaponic farm on top.

However, Beckers is currently not the only one working in the field so far. While only they can work in the greenhouses, a significant part of the roof has been offered for communal use, where individuals interested in urban gardening are given the opportunity to do so for educational purposes.

Source: by

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