Visiting Mr.Graber, R&D Project Manager at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) in Wädenswil, offers more than spectacular views. However, the vista overlooking the lake Zurich from the ZHAW campus is in itself worth a visit.
Yet, work was to be done in the lounge garden of his huge greenhouse research facility, adjacent to the university. Christian Bärtsch who accompanied me on this research trip agreed, and thankfully also took some pictures of the place here.
We met today to discuss possible alleys of collaboration between AquaFarm and the ZHAW team of researchers and students at the department of Ecotechnology and Aquaculture. Indeed, Mr.Graber has been involved with the science behind the magic of Aquaponics for more than 10 years. See here for more information about their impressive track record of publications.
Immediately, Mr.Graber and us hit it off well with each other, and our meeting turned into an open brainstorming session of 3 hours. The opportunity for Mr.Graber to share his knowledge on our project and to facilitate a closer form of collaboration with the ZHAW is evidently a very important milestone for AquaFarm.
Challenges and opportunities in developing a commercial-scale AquaFarm are myrriad: Particularly in the area of sustainable energy management solutions to support the concept from a sustainability and CO2 emission efficiency point of view, the critical scale of throughput of both fish and vegetables as well as the corresponding retail and distribution strategy (50 tons of annual fish filet supply, anybody?!), the issue of nutrient circulation and possible means of adding organic nutrients to support plant growth naturally, the choice between different fish species and their growth patterns as well as their social and breeding characteristics, etc, etc. Overall, I believe that together we can form a powerful alliance to make this happen and I am very excited to move ahead.
Meanwhile, the vertically mounted plants meanwhile dripped along and the merry fish swam in the test installation next door in perfect peace and harmony. It just looks great here.
With Mr.Graber and his colleagues, Dmitri Pugovkin, a Russian-born Aquaculture expert, and Alex Mathis, the Swiss hydroponic specialist, we agreed to work together on both the AquaFarm business plan and the execution, as well as moving ahead with our search for strategic and industrial partners.
To finish off for today, some final bizarre learnings about fish: Firstly, fish can apparently be conditioned not to swim against the wall and hit their heads against it, which is evidently a life skills…secondly, that fish are apparently “more happy and relaxed” when the water has been sourced from the hydroponic garden where the water has been cleared by the vegetables instead of a filtered solution without any plants involved (this may need to be validated with some more research I believe :-)..…thirdly, that fish really like their privacy and hate ignorant human spectators eyeing their every move in the water. – Talk about soulful & intelligent animals, those fish…