Progress Report, May 2013

Progress Report May 2013

Marine Biological Laboratory’s Sustainable Aquaculture Initiative


Background information on the “Turn-Key” family fish production system-

The genesis for the development of the Turnkey family fish production system arose from countless hours listening to our Haitian farmers and friends. Too many times “Blans” or outsiders to Haiti arrive in country and introduce what “we” feel is the best way to address critical issues. Many times we are successful but more than often we are not. The family fish production system is a product designed to perform and function in a manner congruent to the wishes of those who know the complexities and social fabric of their communities better than we ever will. Many of design criteria for the “perfect” fish production system, as conveyed to us, seemed unrealistic and daunting from a design perspective, but who knows better how to design the perfect shoe than the person who will be wearing it.

Here are the Criteria for the perfect “Family Fish Production System” our Haitian friends asked for;

Produces enough fish for family of 4 to eat at least one fish dinner per week

• Biomass holding capacity >100lbsTypical family front yard

• Weighs <150 lbs. unassembled (transportable to rural areas)

• Requires <15 minutes/day to operate

• Appropriate size to be located on family owned property (near house)

• Requires <5 gal of water per day

• Constructed of inexpensive materials

• Easy to operate with minimal instruction

• Utilized dependable, proven technology*

• Will operate using <45watts of power (compatible w/small solar panel)

• Cost less than $2,000 us

(* Our criteria)


Version 1:6 of the Family Fish Production System

If I had more time I would write a shorter letter” (Mark Twain)

This quote has proven to be applicable to the task of designing the system. Countless small-scale fish production systems have been developed and are in use worldwide but most of them incorporate technology and materials that do not meet the criteria set forth for use in Haiti. Simple is difficult.

After much trial and error we feel we have developed a system that comes  close to meeting all the criteria. The performance has been tested in our laboratory greenhouse. Power requirements are slightly above the target of 45 watts but refinements are still underway – fish holding capacity is greater than the 100lb target, we hope this will compensate.


Configuration of Current Design

The rearing tank is constrscreen tankucted from a “frame” of galvanized steel hardware cloth (1/4” mesh) with a liner made from vinyl billboard material, rubber or heavy plastic. The hydrostatic pressure of the water keeps the tank walls upright and secure. As time and resources become available the outside of the steel mesh can be covered in mortar to create a Ferro-cement tank. Life span of liner is about 10 years.

Tank cost = less than 50$bamboo rings

(Note) this technique can also be used to make much needed rain water storage cisterns

Dry bamboo cut into small rings has proven to be a wonderful bio filter material. The plastic barrel is filled with bamboo rings and bacteria that detoxify fish waste adhere to the bamboo and filter the water as it is pumped through the plastic barrel.

Drum & hardware cost = ~40$

(The barrel is also used as the packaging container to allow easy transport of the disassembled system into remote areas.)

Solar Panels (60 watt) +two 12volt batteries and charge controller supply power to a small air compressor that pumps water through drum filter and aerates the water.

Cost = $770.00 US

System Performance & Evaluation

The system, as it is currently configured, is capable of producing approximately five pounds of fish perweek with minimal effort. This production level will provide superb nutrition for a family of four with additional poundage available for sale. The bio filtration capacity can maintain in excess of 125 lbs. of fish in the tank with infrequent addition of new water and the fish are healthy and taste good! (It was difficult to sacrifice fish for flavor testing but we needed to ensure that our filtration system eliminated any “off flavor” due to water conditions.)


Moving Forward

It was our initial hope to install these systems in the town of Marigot Haiti where we have constructed our Aquaculture Learning Center. After much thought and evaluation we have decided to install the first of these systems at site near the town of Leogane. It is always our goal to maximize the positive impact we can achieve with our efforts and perpetuate the wishes of our donors; positive “ripple effects” are what we try to create. A key criterion in creating positive “ripples” is to place these systems in villages or neighborhoods in Haiti that exhibit a strong sense of community and a willingness to share the technology with each other.

We have been very fortunate to find a wonderful site for the debut of these first systems. Kiskeya Aquaferme is a communally owned and operated organic farm nestled within the sugarcane fields near Leogane. The people living in the area are very poor but have demonstrated a willingness to work together to explore new agricultural projects (especially aquaculture). Another key factor in deciding on this location is that it has served as the site where we have previously taught aquaculture training courses and has several local farmers that speak some English. One of the principle owners of this farm Arielle Adrienne, is a good friend, a Haitian born woman, now practicing medicine in Boston who has a fervent desire to help her country become more self sufficient. In addition to Arielle’s efforts to promote the development of a community based farm, Arielle has also established a small medical clinic at the farm site that treats >800 patients/month! Introducing the “Turn-key” family fish farm at this site will hopefully contribute to creating a full spectrum healthy community – nutrition, education, medical care, and job creation (click here for more information.)

During the week of June 11-18, we will be traveling to Haiti to build the premier demonstration system and conduct training courses on its construction and operation. This is an exciting time and the culmination of many thousand hours of trial and error research.



* Eventually these items will be purchased in Haiti (cost will be appx. 15% more)