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Anguilla Representative Attends Aquaponics & Aquaculture Course in St. Croix USVI

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Ms. Kafi Gumbs, the Deputy Director of Scientific Research at the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources, has recently returned to Anguilla, after a five day intense course on ‘International Aquaponics and Tilapia Aquaculture’ in St. Croix United States Virgin Islands (USVI). The course which ran from March 14-18, 2011, was facilitated by the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Agriculture Experimental Station, Aquaculture program. Lecturers were Don Bailey and R. Charlie Shultz whose names are synonymous with aquaculture systems and James Rakocy who is known as the father of aquaponics. UVI began this aquaculture system in 1979, and has been teaching individuals from all over the world during their annual course at UVI St. Croix campus since 1999.

The course which had 56 participants, drew an audience from areas as far as Hong Kong, Egypt, Thailand, Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, with only a hand full from the Caribbean region, namely: Barbados, Trinidad, St. Martin and Anguilla, represented by Ms. Gumbs. Participation in this course was fully funded by the Government of Anguilla. Ms. Gumbs described the experience as fascinating, diverse and incredible new learning; that offered more than she expected.

There were indoor sessions which educated participants on the Biology of tilapia fish, Biofloc fish culture systems, advantages of growing a variety of plants in aquaponic systems, diseases and pest control, chemistry, properties of water, food safety, marketing, writing business plans, building systems and understanding plumbing operations for aquaponics. There was also an equal amount of field work, which ranged from collecting tilapia eggs, gender identification, harvesting tilapia, lessons on filleting fish, and the labelling and marketing of the fish. There were also field lessons on the crop rearing, ranging from seedling production, transplanting, harvesting and the packaging of lettuce, spinach, mint and other herbs and spices.

Ms. Gumbs expressed that UVI system is an amazing, great investment, as it helps generate money for the university, and it reduces the need for imports of tilapia and several vegetable products on the island and through out the Virgin Islands, which is their main market. Ms. Gumbs hopes to work along with the Department of Agriculture to set up a system modelled off of UVI aquaponic system. The main objective of this pilot aquaponic project would be to introduce fish farming to Anguilla; leading to the reduction of fishing pressures on our natural marine environment, as well as produce fresh vegetables that would be grown without the use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides.