Waste, Food, Aesthetics, Aquaculture

Update on Research Project

In the process of looking at historic aquaculture systems, what became immediately apparent was that the artificial growth of fish can extend well beyond the realm of food production to include  the seemingly troublesome combination of waste management and aesthetics.  Indeed, in what was originally intended to become a technical investigation of aquaculture, I have gradually found that a broader perspective is a necessary counterpoint, as it seems that with looking at the growth of fish we can find ourselves investigating numerous essential issues ranging from the creation of ecosystems to microclimatic control.  To this end, my research has become focused on not only the growth of fish in artificial ponds, but also many of the related environmental topics that can be affected by/emanate from such a pond or tank.

To an extent, the fishponds of ancient Italy had already developed this network.  According to James Higginbotham, the inclusion of artificial fishponds, known as piscinae, at historic homes was as much a social and aesthetic act as agricultural.  As evident in the excavations and plans below, many affluent Romans maintained piscinae, an indication of social status and often a focal point of residences that was also a source of food.  In order to feed the fish, the caretakers of the fishponds would use organic waste to feed the fish, including decaying fishparts, assorted fruit, and dried figs in addition to smaller fish.  A highly aesthetic experience that also cooled the air through evaporation, fishponds were an important part of certain Roman residences.

Fish Pond, Baiae

Fish Pond, Baiae

Fish Pond, Tivoli

Fish Pond, Pompeii and Systems

Although this touches on a number of issues that might stem from fishponds, there are modern examples in which aquaponics has been used to treat waste to a much further extent, while still providing food production and a place currently enjoying ecotourism and great biodiversity.  As discussed in greater detail in a previous post (found here), a series of wetlands outside of Kolkata treats sewage from the city that is approaching 14 million in population – and uses that sewage in the production of vegetables and fully one-third of the city’s yearly fish consumption.

Diagram Exploring Systems at East Kolkata Wetlands

In continuing with modern investigations, Hans Haacke also addressed greywater reclamation through the Rhine Water Purification Plant (1971), a project that incorporated fish on a small-scale and indoors.  Although this project did not incorporate fish growth for food, the concept – in addition to his Condensation Cube – reminds us of the fact that many of the attributes of the Kolkata Wetlands and Roman fishponds can be incorporated indoors and at small-scale.  In doing so, all of the associated attributes of the fishpond can be brought within the home to numerous advantages, outlined in the final diagram below that will serve as the groundwork for the research over the remainder of the semester.

Haacke, Rhine Water Purification Plant (via Flickr user ipcsublime2010)

Haacke, Condensation Box (via carolynrordam.blogspot.com)

Indoor Fish Pond Possibilities

Sources for Research:

Bandyopadhaya, Tarasankar, et al.  Preliminary Study on Biodiversity of Sewage EFD Fisheries of East Kolkata Wetland Ecosystem. Kolkata: Institute of Wetland Management and Ecological Design, 2004.

Bunting, S. W., et al.  Workshop Proceedings – East Kolkata Wetlands and Livelihoods.  Kolkata: West Bengal Pollution Control Board, 2001.

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe.  Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food.  New York: Free Press, 2002.

Ghosh, Dhrubajyoti.  Information Sheet on Ramsdar Wetlands. World Wide Fund for Nature – India (accessed September 17, 2010).

Higginbotham, James.  Piscinae: Artificial Fishponds in Roman Italy.  Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.

Juniper, Tony.  “Kolkata: Wonders of the Waste Land.”  Guardian Weekly (UK), August 6, 2004 (http://www.mindfully.org/Water/2004/Kolkata-Wetlands6aug04.htm) (accessed September 19, 2010).

Kundu, Nitai, Mausumi Pal, and Sharmistha Saha.  “East Kolkata Wetlands: A Resource Recovery System Through Productive Activities.”  Proceedings of Taal2007: The 12th World Lake Conference, edited by M. Sengupta and R. Dalwani, p. 868-881.  2008.

Newman, Peter.  “The Distributed City.”  Blog Post, Island Press, February 2, 2009. (http://blog.islandpress.org/300/peter-newman-the-distributed-city) (accessed September 18, 2010).

Ragain, Melissa.  Alchemy and Aquaculture: The Art of Ecosystem ca. 1970.  Master’s Thesis, University of Virginia, 2006.

Rome, Adam.   The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Royte, Elizabeth.  “Street Farmer.”  The New York Times, July 1, 2009 (accessed October 11, 2010).

Sumner, Jennifer.  “Sustainable Horticulture and Community Development: More Than Just Organic Production.”  Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, Vol. 33, No. 4 (2009): 461-483.

Yasmeen, Gisele.  Urban Agriculture in India: A Survey of Expertise, Capacities, and Recent Experience.  New Delhi: International Development Research Centre – South Asia Regional Office, 2001.


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