Eco Innovator March 2012


Aquaponics Farming in Antarctica

The Australian winner of the Big Green Idea is taking his aquaponics system for developing countries to Antarctica.

Melbourne based designer Stephen Mushin is part of a team of scientists, environmentalists and entrepreneurs on the International Antarctic Expedition (IAE) 2012 led by polar explorer and environmental leader, Robert Swan.

During the 16-day expedition, Mr Mushin will study the continent's fragile ecosystem and wildlife and assess the viability of adapting the self-sustaining aquaponics farming system he is co-developing in Melbourne for the E-base research station on King George Island in the Antarctic Peninsula.

E-idea, or Big Green Idea as it is known in Australia, is an innovation competition that funds and mentors young eco-entrepreneurs in Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Mr Mushin's E-Idea project is a modular aquaponics system for developing countries which is tough, can be maintained with basic resources, is self sufficient in water as it requires only natural rainfall, and is self sufficient in energy through solar PV. He is building a prototype in Australia and a system in the Pacific Islands in partnership with biologist Dr Wilson Lennard and the Pacific Islands Forum.

Mr Mushin developed a suite of zero emission public demonstration projects from 2006-2011 as the Green Technology Co-Manager at CERES Environment Park. He also lectures in Environmental Design at RMIT and runs workshops on aquaponics.

"There are already many hydroponic systems in Antarctica – including one designed by NASA – but no aquaponic systems due to strict quarantine controls on importing live fish," says Mr Mushin. "However I propose developing a salt water system which farms Antarctic Krill (to eat) and edible seaweeds. Such a system would enable the E-base to be self sufficient in food as well as renewable energy and would be an exciting demonstration of Antarctic ecology."

He also expects to learn a lot about Antarctic ecology and marine systems that will feed into his E-idea project.

E-idea was co-developed and implemented by the British Council and Lloyd's Register Quality Assurance (LRQA), which contributes £260,000 towards the implementation of the seven Asia-Pacific programs.

The competition was open to nationals aged 18-35 in the participating countries. They were asked for proposals for projects that were either a start-up or expanding an existing project and that address sustainability issues. Projects were evaluated on their ability to produce behaviour change among a target audience, their focus on a community or industry, their capacity to be replicated or expanded over time, and their prospects for future commercialization and investor/ donor appeal.

One E-idea representative from each country will enjoy a fully paid trip to the UK to foster ties and exchange information and best practice with British eco-entrepreneurs and community groups. A final event on November 2012 will bring together eco-entrepreneurs to showcase the most notable E-idea achievements in each country.





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