Home » Features » Environment » Aquaponic Farm Grows Greens – And Fish – In The Desert
Owner Faris Farrag checks on the baby leaf lettuce.
Owner Faris Farrag checks on the baby leaf lettuce.

Aquaponic Farm Grows Greens – And Fish – In The Desert

After introducing a novel ecosystem that not only produces vegetables, but also fresh, delicious tilapia and olive oil, Bustan Aquaponics plans to expand into urban food production and landscaping using drought-tolerant techniques.

Packaged herbs.

Packaged herbs.

written and photographed by Dominika Maslikowski

There’s a row of enormous fish tanks covered up with nets where hundreds of tilapia swim and jump up excitedly at feeding time. There are two greenhouses where vegetables and herbs like cinnamon basil grow in holes that are cut into foam boards that float in long basins of water. It’s not your typical farm, and it’s tempting to describe Bustan Aquaponics as a curious and novel experiment just off the Cairo-Alex dessert road. But when owner Faris Farrag explains the concept, it makes perfect sense. And then it’s the traditional, water-guzzling farms across Egypt that begin to look strange amid an arid landscape.

Olive trees.

Olive trees.

The fish tanks.

The fish tanks.

Though Bustan Aquaponics isn’t exactly an experiment, either. It’s been in operation for the past five years as the country’s first commercial aquaponics farm. When Farrag takes us on a tour in mid-June there are two greenhouses under construction that will double the farm’s output.

Kale.

Kale.

Not much water is wasted here. The cycle begins at the fish tanks greenhouse, where the waste that the fish produce is filtered. The solid waste water from the fish is used for high-quality compost and to irrigate the eight acres of olive trees. The rest of the water passes through filters before it eventually makes its way to the vegetables greenhouse. There, rows of lettuce, basil, peppers and other vegetables are grown in openings cut into foam boards placed in basins of water, which later returns to the fish tanks. It’s a cycle that not only produces vegetables, but also fresh, delicious tilapia and olive oil.

bustan aquaponics greens farming

Roots growing underneath basil.

Roots growing underneath basil.

The farm’s specialty — baby leaf salad — takes some 20 days (in the nursery and in the aquaponic system) to grow, and like all the vegetables it harvests some 20- 30 percent faster than on a traditional soil-based farm. Things can also be grown much more densely, Farrag explains: one acre under production here equals some 7-10 acres on a traditional farm. The basil, and other environmentally friendly methods like ladybirds, are used to keep pests away.

“We try to grow varieties that are not available on the market,” Farrag says, noting that some of the vegetables are used by chefs at local restaurants.

Rows of baby leaf lettuce.

Rows of baby leaf lettuce.

Now, in addition to running the growing farm, Farrag plans to expand by looking into urban food production and landscaping using drought-tolerant methods that always keep the desert landscape and local climate in mind. There are plans to work with real estate developers to bring in arid landscaping, using indigenous plants, as well as educate the communities about what grows well in Egypt.

The farm also hopes to soon organize events that will give visitors a chance to learn more about farming, and about where their food comes from. With more children growing up in urban cities, such knowledge is becoming increasingly rare, Farrag says. “I once had a chef ask me how we grow eggs.”

Pepper.

Pepper.

Bustan Aquaponics products are available through Gourmet Egypt, Ma7ali, Sunny Market and Offah.

bustan aquaponics farming

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INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
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INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
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Jojn Doe, CEO
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Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
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Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
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INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
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Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
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INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
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Jojn Doe, CEO
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Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
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Address:
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INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
INTERGALACTIC COMPANY
"Ridiculus enim cras placerat facilisis amet lorem ipsum scelerisque sagittis lorem tis!"
Jojn Doe, CEO
Tel.: +1 (800) 123-45-67, +1 (800) 123-45-68
Fax: +1 (800) 123-45-69 (any time, 24/7/365)
E-mail: info@intergalactic.company
Website: http://www.intergalactic.company
Address:
221, Mount Olimpus,
Rheasilvia region, Mars,
Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy