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Australia’s latest integrated aquaculture project has just made its debut.

Describing itself as the “world’s first large-scale closed loop food production system”  – Blue Smart Farms (located at Cobbity in New South Wales) – claims a prospective annual capacity of 4 million vegetable units.

This project has a variety of interesting features including the fact that those 4 million vegetables are going to be organic.

Blue Smart Farms is going to disappoint those who have been anticipating a large commercial aquaponics operation in Australia because, while the facility integrates the production of fish and plants; it’s not aquaponics – because the vegetables are to be grown in compost.

Those of us who have been saying that integrated aquaculture is the farming of the future will feel vindicated by the sheer scale and diversity of this project.

While it’s described as “closed loop”, there’s no real indication, at this stage, of exactly which loop is closed.  There’s the fish, the plants and a patented ‘vermiponics’ set up.  Reading between the lines, I’m guessing that the worms are mineralising the watery solids from the aquaculture system to produce nutrients for the plants – and the closed loop is probably recirculation of nutrient-rich water between the worm-based bio-reactor and the plants.

While details are sketchy at this point in time, it appears that the plants are grown in net pots filled with compost and then placed into conventional NFT gullies for watering.

However it works, it’s big and (if the operators’ claims are to be believed) it will produce sixteen times the yield of a traditional farm – and six times that of a conventional greenhouse.

I wish the operators the best of luck in their new venture.

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