Bonaire DailyFresh officially opened its first greenhouse.
The fish tanks
Bonaire DailyFresh has built an impressive greenhouse that uses only water to grow vegetables. Using water instead of soil produces stronger, healthier plants. Within the greenhouse is an aquaponics system of six 500-gallon fish tanks. Each tank is stocked with 200 male tilapias. That may seem like a large number, but in other types of tilapia farming, the density is much higher. The amount of fish used is also balanced with what is needed to grow fresh vegetables within the greenhouse.
The water treatment process
The tanks are continuously cleaned to ensure optimal water conditions through a bottom drain that flows into the filter tanks. As the water and fish waste flows into the drains, the solid waste settles, is separated into the clarifier tank, and is removed. This helps to keep the water in the fish tanks fresh. Then, the water flows from the clarifier tank into the biofiltration tanks. From here, the beneficial bacteria convert the ammonia produced by the fish into nutrients for the plants. The special zdep system is where the solid waste goes when it is removed from the clarifiers. It uses a filtration process that separates the solids from the water, which returns 75% of the clean water that was lost when the waste from the main system was removed. The other 25% goes to fertilize and water the permanent plants.
The cooling system
Maintaining a successful greenhouse in the Caribbean can be quite challenging to keep at the ideal temperature. As the water circulates throughout the day, it can get hot, which is not beneficial for growing vegetables. The greenhouse was designed with ventilation at the bottom and through the roof to help the airflow. Even with the ventilation, it can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit inside! The water chilling systems reduce the water temperature by 10 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps the plants cope with the hot midday temperatures by keeping their roots cold. The water chilling systems are based on evaporation instead of air conditioning, which makes it highly efficient with low operating costs, providing excellent results for Bonaire’s climate.
The germination process
In order to grow high-quality plants, you need to use high-quality seeds. For the germination process, Rockwool is used, which breaks down over time. Each type of seed tends to have a different germination time. In fact, the lettuce seeds germinate within 12-24 hours.
Growing organic produce
Once the seeds have sprouted, they are moved to the area which holds raft beds. Underneath the raft beds is 120,000 liters of water! The water in the system circulates continuously, with 100% of the water going back and forth between the plants and fish. The plants float on top of the raft beds as the healthy, clean roots soak up the nutrients in the water. Each day, a raft is removed and harvested, and a new raft with plants from the nursery is added.
Harvesting the organic produce
From germination to harvesting, it only takes 33 days until you have delicious organic produce! But what happens to the roots of the plants? The nutrient-rich roots are fed to the goats! The produce is then dunked in ice water, placed in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, then bagged to sell. This helps the product to stay as fresh as possible and has a shelf life of two weeks! If you have purchased other leafy greens that have been flown into Bonaire, you know how valuable it is to have vegetables with a long shelf life.
But what about the female fish and reproduction?
Of course, you may be wondering about the tilapias in the tank only being males. There are a few female fish who are the superstars of this operation. They are kept in a separate breeding area with a few males with only YY chromosomes, meaning the females will only produce males. The YY chromosomes can happen naturally in tilapia and were selected for this purpose. The babies, also called fingerlings, are then placed in a special nursery to continue growing.
How long are the fish kept in the tanks?
The fish can reach a marketable size within 8 months. Once a week, 50 fish are taken out of the tank and placed in a separate area with cooler water for five days. After that, they are transferred to water containing a few drops of clove oil to put them to sleep, and then they are laid on the ice. This produces about 400 pounds of fish monthly for sale and consumption as a healthy protein.
Growing vegetables in a sustainable way.
Bonaire DailyFresh has spent a great deal of time and energy developing its first greenhouse and getting it ready for the grand opening. The hard work has paid off, and it shows! From the water, waste, vegetables, roots, and even tilapia, everything can be reused or consumed. Bonaire is lucky to have such a sustainable greenhouse on the island.
About Bonaire DailyFresh
Bob and Lauri Janssen are the masterminds behind Bonaire DailyFresh. It is not easy to grow delicious vegetables on an island like Bonaire, but they have cracked the code in the most sustainable way possible. They started building two years ago and have finally created their large state-of-the-art aquaponics greenhouse, which can grow 160,000 fresh vegetables annually. This is the start of making Bonaire more food resilient and having fresh food available for everyone.
The team at Bonaire DailyFresh is waiting to greet you in the store and help you pick out organic vegetables or healthy tilapia for your dinner. They also offer tours of their aquaponic greenhouse for $20 on certain days, but be sure to book the tour in advance. It is well worth a visit!
Bonaire DailyFresh grows a variety of lettuce, bok choy, spinach, kale, microgreens, herbs, and more! You can also purchase their organic vegetables at the Warehouse in Kralendijk. It will also be available at Van den Tweel as of November 14, 2022. Just look for the Bonaire DailyFresh label, and you will receive the freshest vegetables on the island.