Last Friday I visited the ECF Containerfarm, an urban aquaponics farm situated at the Malzfabrik in Berlin. It falls into the category of “shipping-container farms” which are cropping up all over Europe, I’ve even found a map to see the various projects. The ECF farm is topped by a greenhouse, and is the Aquaponic Farm prototype they used to bring their larger project to fruition. The container houses the fish as well as the filtering system, and the greenhouse grows all sorts of plants in a hydroponic system.
The founders pitched their project at Silicon Valley Clean Tech Open in December 2013 and won as best international Start-Up, which I assume secured them funding for what is currently being built: the largest aquaponics farm in Europe.
The visit started with an explanation of the fishtank and how their filtering systems work. Everyone’s observation was susprise at how small the fishtank was: 1,000 litre tank (which in effect is about four full bathtubs) for 80 fish – perch I think, or trout. We were assured that the fish were not stressed out by this, you can tell by the level of stress-hormones.
Their filtering system, ASTAF-PRO (Aquaponic system for emission-free tomato and fish production), developed by a team at IGB, The Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries. You can read more about it by downloading the pdf (check out page 19), the system is under patent but they seem to be happy to share their knowledge.
We then had some freshly picked melon from the greenhouse which was delicious, and went over across the Malzfabrik to have a look at the construction site, which is impressive and exciting – but tous itself as “intensive farming”. It opens in Spring 2015 and I’m curious to see what happens. I’m not a fan of anything intesive, I think automating processes and trying to be too efficient can often be at the detriment of the product, even if it is based on the wonders of aquaponics. So, we shall see, perhaps I’ll have the chance to visit again when it opens.
(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, my iphone camera broke so I can only use the front camera.)