First aquaponics project in Barka

MUSCAT, March 14 – Dr Fuad bin Jaafar al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, officially launched the first aquaponics farm in Barka on Wednesday.
The project combines conventional aquaculture, which is raising aquatic animals in specially treated tanks, and cultivating plants in water in a symbiotic environment, ensuring non-toxic, healthy farm products and attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.
“It’s a big step forward for us not only in terms of size but in terms of technology and water consumption as well,” said Dr Al Sajwani. “This is a first of its kind in the country and has a huge potential to be replicated in other parts of the country.
Not just that, it also helps in creating jobs and ensuring food safety in the country,” he said.
Al Arfan Aquaponics Agritech, promoters behind the 7,400 sqm project, said 4,600 sqm was dedicated to farm production which can produce 22,700 plants. It currently produces eight varieties of greens and six varieties of vegetables.
It has the capacity to produce 10,800 fishes from 36 tanks in every harvest.
“We have started supplying to major hotels and premium supermarkets and the response has been tremendous for these naturally grown produce,” said James Paul, Managing Director, Muscat Horizons International, the parent company of Al Arfan. “Some customers have started exporting it. Oman being a country with a hot climate, this technology is highly adaptable. In the future, natural energy or solar power will be considered,” said Rijo Chacko, Director. These fishes deposit their waste in the water; this contaminated water is purified by the plants.
These are sent back to the fish, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two.
“This farm can be used as an investment model for other investors along with SMEs. We find there’s great scope for attracting FDI to similar projects in the country,” said the minister.
Training and development programmes for local farmers are currently under way.
Sultan Qaboos University and other institutions are holding programmes and workshops on aquaponics.
He said the fish production has increased 100 per cent in the last seven years, while reproduction of fishes has bright prospects in the country. Their exports are thriving too.
Although Thilapia fish, which is easy to grow and has great demand from across the world, is in use here, the minister said they can consider newer varieties of fishes to be added.
Water Farmers Aquaponics, the organic farming specialists from Canada and Aquaponics Made Easy-to-follow Growing Fish and Plant Together are the technical teams behind the project.
“This project is an amazing technology that is highly suitable for Oman as it is a combination of plants and water.
Secondly, you grow fish and they are taken care in such a way that they contribute to the nature,” said Murray Hallam of Practical Aquaponics.
“The good part is these crops are 100 per cent organic as we don’t use chemicals in the process.
Health-conscious people will find these top-quality vegetables and fishes beneficial to their health,” Hallam said.