By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
THE STEM in Aquaponic Sustainable Agriculture Project was launched on Grand Bahama at two schools where the pilot programme will teach students valuable skills of a more sustainable and eco-friendly system of food production.
The project – which is an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources – was implemented at Eight Mile Rock High School and the Jack Hayward Senior High, in Freeport. Aquaponics is integrated fish and plant farming.
The programme is being launched in seven schools in the Bahamas, including two in Grand Bahama, four in New Providence, and one in North Andros.
Ezralee Rolle, National Youth Development Officer, said the objective is to introduce young people to climate-smart agricultural technology as a means to improve sustainability and build resilient food systems.
“Using Aquaponics in education serves a dual purpose; we are introducing new techniques in farming that provides students with the opportunity for hands on learning at the same time, and we are preparing future practitioners to enter the agricultural sector,” she said.
According to Ms Rolle, the significance of Aquaponic farming is that it is a soil-less practice of growing crops using fish.
She explained that the fish waste is used for fertiliser for plants.
“It combines aquaculture and hydroponics in a recirculating closed system. This technology is climate-sensitive because it reduces the pressure posed on the environment, requiring less water, little to no input like fertilisers, pesticides and other inorganic chemicals,” she noted.
The official stated that this method lessens the negative impact on the environment and provides a method of farming that can be achieved year-round.
Ms Rolle said the programme promotes STEM (Science Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills and 21st-century skills.
She stated that students will be managing the systems so they will be troubleshooting and problem-solving using math and science-based skills as well as building soft skills in communication and collaboration.
Last Summer, Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard launched the summer aquaponics programme at Jack Hayward High where 21 students participated in the project.
During that time, the minister stressed that “aquaponics is a critical part of the future thrust of The Bahamas in agriculture.”
Minister Pintard noted that approximately 90 per cent of the food consumed in the Bahamas is imported, and many of the items can be grown locally with vacant land available on islands like Andros and Grand Bahama.
He noted that such methods can put the country on the path of less dependence for others for food, and provide greater independence, and food security.
“This area could make a huge impact if most of what is being consumed by the millions of visitors to the country are grown locally. That way, most of the money would be kept at home,” he said.
The STEM Aquaponics Sustainable Project is a partnership between the ministry, the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI).