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The Role of Aquaponics in Addressing Challenges of the the Food-Water-Energy Nexus using Malta as a Case-Study

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Malcolm Borg

on 17 February 2013

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Transcript of The Role of Aquaponics in Addressing Challenges of the the Food-Water-Energy Nexus using Malta as a Case-Study

CHANGE Malta is self-sufficient in most fresh
vegetables, pork, milk and eggs
[16]. Heavy importer of
cereals for human and animal consumption [16]. WATER PRICING Around 2 million kgs of frozen fish and 20,000 kgs of fresh fish imported annually [15]. Around 5 million kgs of blue-fin tuna exported to Japan every year [23]. Importer of fresh fruit, potatoes, sugar, wine vegetable oil, meat and others [17]. Exports 7,000 tonnes of potatoes annually [14,32]. Around 1,500 tonnes of fish landed by fishermen- mostly consumed locally [8]. 47.8% of land in Malta is used for agriculture (11,500 hectares of Utilized Agricultural Area) [18]. 73.5% of holdings are less than 1ha each [16,18]. 1,123 hectares are used for kitchen gardens reflecting their small size [16,18]. Sometimes leads to abandoning of land and speculation for development (usually starts as an agricultural building subsequently converted to a non-agricultural one) [16]. Agricultural Land is automatically re-let to existing tenants or his/her descendants Given the cheap prices at which land is rented, tenants hold on to their land resulting in a dire shortage of fresh agricultural land on which young farmers can start an agricultural activity. Furthermore, the purchase of land is made impossible by the exorbitant prices. Full-time farmers: 1,300 (decrease of around 400 from 2007)
Part-time farmers: 17,200 (increase of around 2,000 from 2007) [18]. For every farmer under the age of 35, there are 10 farmers of 55 years or over [16]. Propagative material, fertilizers, pesticides etc. are all imported by wholesalers Farmers engage horticultural experts often as only 3.8% of farmers have any sort of training [16]. Agricultural income dropped by 21.2% when compared to 2010 [5]. Previously buffered by protective levies on imported produce. Economies of scale do not allow Maltese farmers to compete with their foreign counterparts- therefore product is almost always more expensive Mechanization Automation Investment in Research
& Technology Maltese most quality-oriented when purchasing food [3]. Little or no post-harvest processing All of the Maltese territory is considered to be a Least Favourable Area (LFA) to the EU and therefore farmers benefits from 250 euros every hectare of arable land [22]. Most payments are subject to environmental cross-compliance measures. 55.8% of arable land is used for forage plant. Many of this crop is used as straw for farm animal bedding [16]. Substantial subsidies for low input & sustainable agriculture. Other subsidies for modernization of holdings, adding value to agricultural products, developing new products and development/adaptation of agricultural infrastructure [22]. Net Imports of Virtual Water is 644 million cubic metres per year (compared to the 57 million cubic metres per year of real water production [11]. Hostage to water policies in other countries because of its very high levels of imported goods. 90% of groundwater bodies is of 'poor status' and unfit for drinking [11]. EU nitrate threshold level: 50mg/L
Some places in Malta registered values of 488mg/L [10] Causes: Uncovered manure heaps, excessive use of artificial fertilizers & manure, bad agricultural practice. Irrigated land has
doubled in the last 10 years [11,18] Agriculture uses 28 million cubic metres of water per year (sustainable yield from all aquifer for ALL uses is 25 million cubic metres) [11]. Almost all farmers practicing intensive agriculture uses groundwater for irrigation. Groundwater used by farmers is free of charge. Leading to
salinization of ground water. Process for a farmer to build reservoir is very lengthy and bureaucratic. Authority oftentimes refrain from granting a permit because of ecological (or archaeological) reasons. Semi-arid country- approximately 600mm
of precipitation every year. Increased urbanization, abandonment of dams and reservoirs, well law not enforced: water catchment is poor. 50% more groundwater is extracted than is re-charged every year [25]. One cubic metre of water for domestic purposes cost €2.30 (£1.81) and €5.41 (£4.25) for commercial purposes [25]. Electricity tariffs are seven times more expensive [2]. There is no sewerage charge in Malta. Becoming increasingly saline due to over-extraction to the detriment of agriculture. One of the ten poorest countries in terms of water resources per inhabitant just above Saudi Arabia. Niger, Sudan, Israel, Egypt, Oman, Somalia all fare better [21]. Europe considers any country having less than 2,000 cubic metres per capita per year as a country suffering from water scarcity.
Malta has around 40 cubic metres per capita per year [11]. Malta has no rivers or lakes. The private sector pumps 38,000 litres a minute 365 days a year [11]. A sewage-treatment plant was built which used to provide second-class water to farmers. This was discontinued because this water had high salt concentrations to the detriment of the crop. Because of this high salt concentration, plants did not uptake enough water (high osmotic pressure in soil solution), farmers irrigated more and the product spoiled easily.
Consumer perception of TSE- irrigated crops is negative. This plant is now being equipped with a Reverse
Osmosis to remove salts.
Problem remains: how will this water be distributed to farmers (assuming farmers will be the beneficiaries). 55% of tap water comes from Reverse
Osmosis desalinization plants (45% from groundwater) [11]. Susceptible to marine
accidents such as oil
spills. Dependent on an energy source- 4% of
total electricity supply and susceptible to
power outages [11]. Burning of Heavy Fuel Oil in power stations Other major users are vehicles
and industry. All fossil fuels are
imported. Maltese households lowest energy consumers in the EU but have low energy efficiency [4]. One of six EU countries with increasing annual energy consumption [4]. Renewable energy is 0.4% of final
energy consumption [26]. Target of 10% of final
energy consumption by 2020 [26]. Investing heavily in solar energy in
both urban and rural areas. Mainly for rotovators, small tractors
and knapsack pesticide sprayer. Small distances between farm and fork-
low food miles. 81.5kg per hectare [24]. Surplus phosphorus and potassium
used by farmers [6]. Leaching Farmers have little or no knowledge of fertilizer composition, quantity
that should be applied etc. CHOICE OF CROP When purchasing propagative material, farmers do not take into consideration the water requirements/salinity tolerance of varieties/cultivars. Some of the more salt-tolerant crops grown in Malta include: beets, pumpkin, squash and brassicas [7]. Melons, watermelons, globe artichoke, brassicas etc. are all very popular and require high levels of water. Some of the more salt-sensitive crops grown in Malta include: strawberries, onions, carrots and beans [7]. Malta has a population of
400,000 inhabitants- the highest population
density in the EU (1,305 people per square mile) followed by the Netherlands with only 493. [13]. Second largest population growth in the
EU (7.8 persons per every 1,000 in 2011) [27]. Migration drastically on the increase: number
of migrants arriving outnumbering natural population growth [27]. Malta has one of the lowest birth rate
in the EU (9.6 newborns per 1000
inhabitants) [27]. Increased ambient temperatures
will give rise to increased water
demand in all sectors (esp. agriculture) Lower rainfall and more
intense heat waves predicted:
less aquifer recharge [11]. Present crop (and varieties)
will not be suitable to changed climate. Maltese are of the opinion that agriculture is beneficial for the environment (96%) and that agriculture contributes to the beauty of the countryside (96%) [3]. 95% are satisfied with local produce;
74% think that it is good value for money;
93% think that local produce is of good quality;
72% are aware of whether the produce they buy is local or foreign [12]. Reasons to prefer local: fresher,
more genuine and helps local economy [12]. Increased awareness on food source,
method of cultivation, inputs, environmental
impact and nutritional benefits. Energy Water Food Less dependent on import
& subsidies Efficient use of land Intensification of
production Low production costs Competitive prices Cultivation of drought- and
salt-tolerant crop species/cultivars Maximisation of Nutrient Use Efficient and sustainable use of groundwater (even in its saline state). Use of diversified water sources Increased use of alternative
energy sources CONSUMER/FARMER CULTURE Easy to use Driven by market demand POPULATION
GROWTH Potential for Automation,
Intensification and Urbanization Climate Change Within the boundaries of a changing climate Evaluate the rationale of the introduction of aquaponics in a country where marine aquaculture is a very strong sector. Examine how local food trends can be met using aquaponics for a more food-secure, resource-efficient nation. Compare water and nutrient efficiency, utilization and sustainability between soil-based, hydroponic and aquaponic set-ups (by utilizing models and pilot trials) taking into consideration the challenges faced by the Maltese Islands. Appraise an aquaponic set-up through its possibility of cultivating a variety of crops depending on the needs of locals, tourists and migrants. Identify methods by which an aquaponic set-up can be powered using alternative energy and be economically viable. Analyze whether aquaponic products meet market demand Examine how aquaponic set-ups can be scaled to be utilized by both part-time and full-time farmers in rural and urban areas. THE ROLE OF AQUAPONICS IN ADDRESSING CHALLENGES POSED BY THE FOOD-WATER-ENERGY NEXUS USING THE MALTESE ISLANDS AS A CASE-STUDY REFERENCES 1.Agius, P. Malta (A Country Report) In: Water Management for Drought Mitigation in the Mediterranean; Options Mediterraneennes, 2004, Series B, no. 40

2. Cremona, M., Water Supply in the Mediterranean Islands: Malta’s Experience; Presentation to the European Economic and Social Committee, 2009

3.Eurobarometer- European Commission & Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, European’s Attitudes Towards Food Security, Food Quality and the Countryside; Special Eurobarometer 389/ Wave EB77.2- TNS Opinion & Social

4.European Environment Agency, Energy Efficiency and Energy Consumption in the Household Sector (ENER 022)- Assessment, 2012

5.Eurostat, EU 27 real agricultural income per worker up by 6.7%; News Release 194/2011; 2011

6.Eurostat, Fertilizer Consumption and Nutrient Balance Statistics, 2011

7.Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Agricultural Drainage Water Management in Arid and Semi-arid Areas; Natural Resources Management and Environment Department, 2002

8.Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) National Aquaculture Sector Overview – Malta; Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, 2005

9.Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Profile of Malta’s Fisheries; Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, 2005

10.Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) Nitrate Levels in Groundwater Bodies; The Environment Report Indicators 2010-2011, 2011

11.Malta Water Association (MWA), Making Water Everybody’s Business: Recommendations to Political Parties, 2012

12.MaltaMedia, Majority of Maltese Prefer Local Produce, 2006
13. Office for National Statistics, 2011 Census- Population and Household Estimates for England and Wales, March 2011

14.MaltaMedia, Malta Potatoes, January 2005

15.Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs (MRRA); Fisheries Operational Programme for Malta (2007-2013); October 2008

16.Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs (MRRA) Rural Development Programme for Malta (2004-2006); 2004

17.National Statistics Office (NSO) [Malta] Agriculture and Fisheries; National Statistics Office, 2011

18.National Statistics Office (NSO) [Malta], Census of Agriculture 2010, 2012

19.National Statistics Office (NSO) [Malta] Energy Consumption in Malta 2000-2007; News Release, 2008

20.National Statistics Office (NSO) [Malta] World Water Day 2011; News Release, 2011

21.NationMaster; Water Availability by Country, 2012

22.Paying Agency (Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs); 2012

23.The FishSite; Dispute Over Tuna Trade Figures; August 2008

24.The World Bank, Fertilizer Consumption, 2012

25.Timesofmalta.com, ‘Charge more to Conserve Water’, 2012

26. Timesofmalta.com, Maltese Consume Least Energy in EU, 2012

27.Timesofmalta.com, Migration Biggest Factor in Population Growth, 2011

28. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), The State of Food and Agriculture, 2009

29. Minsitry for Resources and Rural Affairs (MRRA), An Aquaculture Strategy for Malta, 2012

30. National Statistics Office (NSO), Malta, World Food Day 2011, News Release

31. Mizzi, L. School Fruit Scheme MEUSAC Meeting (Presentation)

32. European Commission- Forecast Working Group "Potatoes"- 2009
http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/fruit-and-vegetables/product-reports/potatoes/expert-group/potatoes_112009_en.pdf FISHERIES & AQUACULTURE Malta's coastline is limited and only part
of it is suitable for cage culture
Competition for space with shipping, tourism and leisure is intense.
Public perception of fish farms is negative because of tuna penning and pollution [29]. Malta has 6 farms operating at 9
sites [29]. Seabream and seabass exported to
Italy faces stiff competition from the Greeks and other countries because of limited economies of scale.
and is highly dependent on a ferry link between
the two countries [29]. "For sea bass and sea bream, Malta must
accept whatever prices prevail in commodity markets or seek to differentiate products and target niche markets" [29]. High cost production for sea bass and sea
bream (closed-cycle species) limits opportunities for market
expansion since products are in competition
with others [29]. Potential market expansion
for meagre and amberjack.
The latter is being researched
thoroughly and Malta is at
the forefront of research in
this area.
Dolphinfish and sole also have
potential [29]. Reduced quotas for
Bluefin Tuna due to
depleting stocks [29]. Fish feed is imported [29]. Opportunity to develop
premium value added products
based on new species [29]. Consumption per capita
is 6.58kg- below the EU
average [29]. Sea bass and sea bream
is preferred by retailers
because of consistent availability and size [29]. Offshore aquaculture limitations:
distance from shore, exposure to weather and
water depths (requiring
additional strength of
mooring components) [29]. Eco-labelling, other certification
and differentiation of products
(e.g. meagre processing) offers
good potential [29]. Meat consumption dropped 0.6% between 1995 and 2005.
Milk consumption increased 0.8% between 1995 and 2005.
Egg consumption dropped 5.2% between 1995 and 2005 [28]. Total daily intake of fruits and vegetables
is 487g/day (Cyprus 749g/day) [31]. Between 2009 and 2010, there was an increase in household spending in oils and fats (+3.8%), dairy (3.7%) and fruit (1.3%) and drops in fish (1.9%), meat (0.7%) and vegetables (0.5%) [30]. Production volume of fruits
and vegetables unstable [17].
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