Jaime Guerra’s New Aquaponics-to-Table Movement
Feb 28, 2014 10:06AM
By Linda Sechrist
Aquaponics, the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics into a no-waste cultivation system, is growing in popularity among gardeners, businesses and celebrity chefs such as Jose Andres, Ingrid Hoffmann and Adrianne Calvo. Although a simple concept, it involves a complex system that circulates water from fish tanks through planter boxes and back to the fish, which is usually tilapia.
Home chefs can experiment with a countertop-sized personal aquaponics garden. The three-gallon tank has a small pump and a place for six plants. The process is self-contained and offers up a bounty of bite-size pieces of basil or any other herb that can draw its nutrients from recycled fish waste, which is converted by bacteria into the nitrates that plants need.
For the more serious home gardener or community gardener, Cape Coral resident and owner of Aquaponic Onsite Training For Communities, Jaime Guerra, can design aquaponic systems and provide training. An aquaculture and aquaponic consultant, Guerra has designed and set up aquaponic integrated projects in Pine Island and Cape Coral, as well as several projects in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
“I also set up a system on Pine Island next to my sister’s kitchen so that she can walk outside the door and cut what she needs for cooking. It’s been a real eye-opener for her neighbors, who benefit from an abundance of her fresh lettuce. On Saturdays, she sells what her family can’t consume at Fruitscapes. My other system supplies local restaurants,” advises Guerra, who particularly enjoys designing systems for individuals with disabilities. “Waist-level systems are perfect for gardeners with physical limitations or those who are in wheelchairs. In fact, they can be designed in a variety of ways, including for a wall.”
According to Guerra, it is not necessary to farm acres of land to produce healthy, nutrient-dense food for neighborhoods of people. “It can be done in the middle of the city in a backyard,” emphasizes Guerra, who will fly to Costa Rica on April 10 to set up the country’s first restaurant with an indoor aquaponics system so that diners can appreciate the source of the fresh vegetables on their plates. “It’s also a seven-day training opportunity for five individuals interested in learning to build the system that I designed a few weeks ago. I’ll also train them to use the system and maintain it,” he says.
Before Guerra flies south with his aquaponic protégés, he plans to plant spinach to go with his tomatoes, parsley, lettuces, mint, chives, watercress, kale, Swiss chard and basil. In his opinion, aquaponics rivals the farm-to-table movement. “It’s natural, a lot easier to do and much more manageable,” he says.