At Rak Tamachat Permaculture Education Center, Thailand, the aquaculture program is up and running. We have many ponds that are excellent for growing fish and demonstrating various methods of fish cultivation. In February, we stocked 4,000 fry-size (5cm) clarias catfish in an existing floating dock. In March, we followed that up by building a new bamboo and barrel floating dock that we stocked with 500 black tilapia. So, we are well on our way in this creative and experimental journey.
A main effort of our aquaculture program is to offset our food cost and feed fish naturally. Although currently the fish are fed commercial floating pellets, we will be implementing three strategies to accomplish this goal. First, we are in the process of improving the pond ecology which will provide a balanced and stable food web for caged and released fish. This starts with a manure fertilizer application and the introduction of suitable aquatic plants into the pond ecosystem. A second strategy is to create dynamic systems that incorporate animal waste as an organic fertilizer and a direct food source for fish. A third and promising option is to make our own fish feed.
A second effort of the program is to demonstrate a variety of fish cultivation systems that exist in Asia. A traditional Thai grow-out system uses nets called hapas that are secured to the bottom of the pond by poles. When the tilapia are large enough, we will move them to the hapa cages. Also, a new canal has been completed around the perimeter of the rice fields. When the rainy season starts in June, we will start various polyculture systems with the larger catfish and larger tilapia. A variety of systems will be developed including a rice/fish cultivation system, an integrated duck system, a pig pen system that includes a duckweed harvesting area, and an integrated chicken coop system. All of these will have access to the rice fields when the water level rises. When the rains recede, the fish will retreat into the canals and be harvested. There is a lot of work that needs to be completed. But we are excited about the prospects of raising fish and providing a unique opportunity for people to come and learn about aquaculture at Rak Tamachat Permaculture Education Center, Thailand.
And of course, we plan to fry up a few along the way!