What is in this article?:
- Desert Springs Tilapia is an aquaculture farm located in the southwestern Arizona low desert in Dateland making great strides toward sustainable farming.
- A unique feature of the farm is the use of a water source which has proven inadequate for raising crops, including cotton, historically grown in this area.
- Farming aquatic for protein makes good sense. Aquatic animals require less energy for body support due to near neutral buoyancy.
Another unique feature of this farm is that the aquifer supplying the water is geothermally heated. The water comes out at a balmy 85- 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Tilapia thrives in water temperatures of 82-86 degrees.
This increases profitability by reducing energy costs and supports year-round production.
The farm enhances its sustainability by making a good second use of of the water. Although cotton cannot grow in the saline water, other crops can.
“Most people consider water as their primary input product, but to us, it is a waste product,” McMaster said. “You can either throw it out or you figure out ways to utilize it as a resource.”
The effluent water does not go to waste. It contains key nutrients vital to plant growth including nitrogen and phosphorus. The fish farmers are able to successfully grow acres of wheat, sorghum, alfalfa, and barley while eliminating the need for commercial fertilizers.
The efforts at Desert Springs Tilapia are helping to reduce pressure on global fisheries and provide a good source of protein to feed a growing population.
Perhaps these methods should be a more profitable and sustainable way of farming for more farmers in the future, Fitzsimmons said.
“I would like to see all agriculture in the world integrate with aquaculture and use the water twice,” Fitzsimmons said.
“Whether you are in Egypt or Pakistan or Mexico or southwestern Arizona, anybody who is pumping water to irrigate ought to grow fish in it. It doesn’t hurt anything; it just adds a lot of fertilizer value to the water, and the farmer gets another cash crop.”
Visit the Desert Springs Tilapia farm website at www.desertspringstilapia.com.
By Mary Carroll, University of Arizona student
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