Sustainable Cities™

New York: Urban fish farms

An increasing demand for fish for consumption creates a risk for over-fishing in the oceans all over the world. Indoor fish farms can be an answer to this food crisis. A professor in biology in Brooklyn, New York has developed a new type of indoor fish farms established in the city. With indoor fish farms, it is possible to create a controlled environment that provides a healthier aquaculture.

Fisk, Af VictoriaPeckham, Flickr, Creative Commons

Fish stocks are dwindling while demand is rising. As a result, the fishing industry is constantly trawling deeper to replace the depleted stocks causing destruction of the ecosystem of the oceans beyond repair.

Indoor urban aquaculture could be a solution to this. In a cellar at Brooklyn College, New York, professor in biology Martin P. Schreibman is farming thousands of Tilapia (a fish normally imported from South America and Asia) in big tanks. 84% (2012) pf U.S. seafood is imported and americans consumed about 300 million pounds of Tilapia in 2005, making it no. 6 on the list of seafood consumption. A facility located in an urban centre will reduce the transportation costs currently associated with importing fish from outside the city. Schreibman explains that fish farming is intended to complement, not supplant, the commercial fishing industry.

Tilapia is a good fish for urban farming because they are disease resistant and very efficient at converting feed to body mass. Compared to conventional fishing, fish raised in outdoor fish farms are fed anti-biotics. Schreibman is using a bacteriological system to handle the fishes' waste in his fish farm. Outdoor farms release waste into surrounding ecosystems, while Schreibman's Recirculating Aquaculture Systems use bacteria to break it down, increasing the amount of recyclable water. Urban fish farms provide a more accurate simulation of the natural environment than out-door fish farms, helping the system to sustain itself. The re-circulating technology, which is a water re-use system, enables producers to grow fish in large numbers in a limited area.

Fish, By Augepfel, Flickr, Creative Commons

Urban fish farming is not new in and around New York City. Until a few years ago, residents in Morris Park, the Bronx, bought Tilapia from a small fish farm in the basement of a commercial building, and a small Tilapia farm is tended by inmates in the Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey.

Schreibman's idea is to create urban fish farms all over New York. He points out that urban aquaculture could be a USD 1.5 billion-a-year industry, in New York alone. Some have criticised the idea saying that it is not economically viable, given the fact that New York has higher labour and utility costs than most other areas in the US. However, Schreibman believes that New York's sustainable consumers are ready to pay a little more for fish produced in the city and that urban fish will be more economically sustainable in the future.

There is also a social component to Schreibman's master plan. He hopes to remedy urban ills by providing jobs and food for the poor using abandoned warehouses to create urban fish farms. Just like people have started their own community garden to sustain themselves with vegetables, individuals can create their own urban fish farms.

"Our oceans have been overfished beyond repair. If we're going to keep eating fish (….) we may have to rely on aquaculture." Professor Martin Schreibman


Read more:
>> New York: Organic rooftop garden
>> Future city: Vertical farming
>> Havana: Feeding the city on urban agriculture
>> Dar Es Salaam: Feeding the sustainable city

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014