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Case Study // Integrated MultiTrophic Aquaponics: A Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach for cycling plant nutrients and minimizing water consumption

By Nora Ibáñez Otazua and colleagues. This study aimed at evaluating the feasibility of combining Integrated MultiTrophic Acquaculture with hydroponic horticultural production.

Case study horticulture

Figure 2: Symbiotic relationship among aquatic species, bacteria and plants in the IMTA-NFT & IMTA-FRS.


Integrated MultiTrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) is based on an ecosystem approach framework, where the farming of aquaculture species from different trophic levels with complementary ecosystem functions allows one species’ uneaten feed and wastes, nutrients and by-products (in particulate and dissolved forms) to be recaptured and converted into fertilizer, feed and energy for the other species, taking advantage of synergistic interaction between species. Moreover, the combination of IMTA with hydroponics allows to minimize water consumption, avoids the discharge of effluents enriched in dissolved nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from IMTA into ground or surface waters, and decreases the need of using crop fertilisers of mineral origin made from depleting natural resources by recovering the nutrients from wastewater (converting fish excretion into highvalue products for plants).

The present study, conducted in the frame of HortiMED H2020 PRIMA Project (Grant Number 1915) funded by the European Union, was aimed at evaluating the feasibility of combining Integrated MultiTrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) including the production of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), mullet (Liza ramada), crayfish (Procambarus clarkia) , clams (Aspatharia chaiziana and Aspatharia, family Iridinidae) and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) with hydroponic horticultural production (red and green leaf lettuce, chili and bell peppers, cucumber, eggplant, mallow, watercress and celery) using (i) Nutrient FilmTechnique (NFT) and (ii) Floating Raft System (FRS) to maximize nutrient cycling resulting from culturing plants and aquatic animals.


Download the full case study here.

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