A lovely day helping in the sensory garden


Black soldier fly research begins.

Whilst Baptiste and Dan are going to share a report on their research soon, I just want to share photos from tonight’s work -evening – the completion of the black soldier fly lab, the allocating of feed inputs and the addition of tiny fly larvae to the mix!

Black soldier fly research and tomorrow’s work evening

Baptiste and Alice spent the visiting Antonio at BioAqua Farm then the rest of the day involved picking up all kinds of things for the black soldier fly trials beginning next week! Special thanks to Matter Wholefoods for their precious food waste, New Bristol Brewery for their spent grain and fingers crossed for bread from the Old Market Bakery! 

We are all set then for tomorrow’s workday where we will build an insulated box for flyopolis, the mile fly club will be opened to minute guests and the crayfish aquaponics will get planted! We start at 18:30 – look forward to seeing you here!

Black Soldier Fly Trial Planning day

We are very excited that Baptiste as part of his ‘stage’ (sort of a work-experience / internship) will be able to run our latest black soldier fly pilot – as imagined by volunteer and ecologist Dan. The plan is to test the grow out and response of BSF on a series of single issue urban waste streams… and to test the resulting larvae for basic protein levels. We will also hope to have a go at freeze drying, grinding and alginating. We will be visiting our local brewer, baker and cafe to see what they can give us ūüôā – Today Baptiste and Dan draw up their plans – which are made slightly easier by not having to deal with the reproduction side of the fly’s life cycle.¬†WhatsApp Image 2017-11-01 at 12.00.43.jpeg


This week down’t farm

Exciting times as we edge towards telling you all some big news – hard to keep a lid on it! Hopefully we can let the cat out the bag next week! In the meanwhile, we are really happy to have a new Intern – food ok France – Baptiste, for a month. Our rescued crayfish seem happy – we made them a pretty tight system (see photo). Thursday night’s work-evening we will gather to make progress on our black soldier fly research led by Dan and Rose. Let us know if you are coming to lend a hand – as we will cook for everyone. 

South Bristol Sensory Gardens Adventures


We absolutely love having South Bristol Sensory Gardens on our 1 Vale Lane site. This week has been really exciting for the project. When Bristol based usines canopy and stars dismantled their crane treehouse, they offered the gardens their planters – brimming with herbs, flowers and grasses – to provide sensory delights for the community! Plus Ana one of the lead volunteers at the garden who just happens to be a graphic and UX designer has been testing a logo – what do you think? Here’s a little slide show of the pick-up efforts! JK and Lucy extend thanks to Chris, Jo, Annelies, Alice (thats me yayyyy) and Ana of course for pulling together to get this done!

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Great workday guys!

Some photos from today when we cleaned and sterilised our system after the pilot to prepare for the next installation of the course when we will put another ibc system into action together! Great work from our lovely team of volunteers! Also so many worms! A good sign of the health of the media beds! 

Rough Outline of Commercial Aquaponics Course


Proposed Course Outline


-To make commercial aquaponics accessible
-To enable participants to overcome specific production issues through access to specific information and expert guidance;
-To enable participants to realise true product value, by taking a systems approach focusing on the entire production cycle and determining the best options for system set up, diversification and sustainability;
-To train entry level practitioners in a holistic manner, in response to current challenges to the socioeconomic sustainability of the aquaculture industry in Europe

Thursday РIntro and Compliance

  • Introduction to this year‚Äôs course, tour of Bristol Fish Project‚Äôs facility in making with Q&A.
  • Session with Eric Roderick of FishGen on inspirational aquaponics projects from around the world, and on his work in commercial hatchery and Broodstock management.
  • CEFAS ‚Äď Fish Health and Biosecurity and Compliance with¬†Nick Stinton.

Working through your Business Templates:

  • Building a Biosecurity Plan ‚Äď Introduction to the Template
  • Building a Risk Assessment ‚Äď Introduction to the Template
  • Building a Food Safety Management Plan ‚Äď Introduction to the Template

Evening Class –¬†Preparing¬†(filleting, gutting, scaling ‚Äď techniques with advanced techniques if the group is already pro-fae with basic techniques) your fish with¬†The Fish Shop¬†team¬†and Q&A with a fishmonger ‚Äď with discussion on wholesale prices, quality, asthetic, and what it means to sell the ‚Äėstory‚Äô of your product.

Friday – The Practice

  • We start the day with a witness session ‚ÄstMichael Jeutner will be presenting an exemplar design and business plan for a decoupled warehouse system +Q&A.
  • Following that Kate Hoffman of¬†GrowUp Urban Farms¬†will be sharing her experiences for applying for different kinds of funding and how to maximise your chances of success.
  • Typical farming issues – debugging fish and plants
  • After Lunch we will take a look at our next template ‚ÄstBuilding a Funding Proposal
  • Dr Rosemary Crichton on Feed Options and Nutritional Profiling.
  • Beca Beeby (Humble by Nature) hands-on session on working with Black Soldier Flies for urban food waste recycling and feed production.

Saturday – The Tech

  • Hydroculture ‚Äď a demonstration of a variety of hydroponic techniques ‚Äď hands on ‚Äď
  • Synthetic lighting / augmenting natural light.
  • Sensors, Water Quality, Monitoring with¬†Seneye. Understanding what is happening in¬†your water is vital to ensuring that the aquatic life remains healthy. This revolutionary water monitoring device allows you to continuously track the changes in the water parameters, alerting you to the problems before they affect your system.
  • Building and managing your production schedule with¬†Agrilyst:¬†a web-based software platform that helps indoor farms manage their crops and gain data-driven insights to make more profitable production decisions.


  • Visit¬†to¬†BioAqua Farm¬†in Somerset.
  • Visit to Grow Bristol
  • Funding your venture ‚Äď Model Template
  • New business models (CSA, community enterprise, crowd-equity, SITR)
  • Welcome to the British Aquaponics Association and course Alumni (+access to network resources). Group¬†Meal.

Sunday¬†‚Äď Morning visit to¬†Haughton Springs¬†Arctic Char farm in Dorset

Afternoon regroup for final Q&A and hands on at Bristol Fish Project


Pricing – As usual ‚Äď because our project‚Äôs mission¬†is to¬†make aquaponics accessible; the course is run at close-to-cost and we remain a not-for-profit organisation ‚Äď so it‚Äôs hard for us to make concessions. If you can‚Äôt manage the price (¬£400) though ‚Äď please get in touch and we can investigate options such a skill swap / group price if you are several people coming from one organisation. We are particularly keen for businesses to sponsor a student – please let us know if your project is able to sponsor a place for a student this year.

NB students from previous years can also attend some of the sessions for a minimum donation of £5. We will keep you all posted with the up-to-date schedule.

Here are a few snippets from previous years… 

and remember if you are interested  PLEASE FILL OUT THE DOODLE with your availability so that we can pick the best weekend to suit everyone!

unnamedLast year for the first time Dr Rosemary Crichton took us through fish physiology and responses to feeds and discusses the various ingredient options and how we can consider these for making aquaponic feeds.

Rose has a huge interest in how aquaponic feeds can be produced from urban waste streams

kate.jpgIn previous years we’ve heard how raising the funding for an aquaponics project, regardless of the size, is hard work and takes time. But it can pay off if it means you can start your project! Kate Hofman  of GrowUp Urban Farms will be sharing her experiences for applying for different kinds of funding and how to maximise your chances of success… Kate is the co-founder of GrowUp Urban Farms. GrowUp Urban Farms produces sustainable fresh fish, salads and herbs in cities using a combination of aquaponic and vertical growing technologies.

unnamed (1)In our final commercial aquaponics class, we are confronting the endgame ‚Äď and the mental shift from sacrifice to celebration ‚Äď the aching beauty of preparing carefully that which you have nurtured for the platter‚Ķ[read more]

Crowdfunder is live!

Local Eel populations need our help!! So we have put together a crowdfunder as part of the Better Bristol campaign and it went live err just NOW…¬†

Dig deep and help us to tackle this important problem!…

There is a problem – Eels are critically endangered. In the Bristol Channel Eel numbers are dwindling. Eels have a complicated life cycle. Many die on their journey up the Bristol Channel – especially in the tiny glass eel phase – ¬†from¬†disease, poor waterways management and by being eaten by predators.¬†This project will¬†support and rebuild¬†our Eel populations, so that ¬†our traditions of eels in the Bristol Channel don’t get¬†lost forever!

Current conservation efforts rely on glass eels being captured from the wild, grown on until they are less fragile, then released back into the wild, in a safe place. Eel conservation locally faces lack of public awareness of the Eel and the fate of the Eel. Community-scale restocking programmes like Spawn to be Wild struggle to get enough eels to release Рwhich is where we come in!  And is why -we are raising money to increase our eel- ongrowing capacity at our facility in Hartcliffe!            

At Bristol Fish Project we have run a pilot to grow eels from tiny fragile babies (glass-eels) to a larger, stronger size (elvers), for¬†release- working with local people¬†and projects. We are really pleased with our pilot – now it’s time for us to increase our eel production capacity. We want to make sure there are plenty of elvers to put back into the local waterways for restocking and to make sure elvers are¬†available, affordable and accessible for schools¬†and community projects (e.g. Eels for Schools¬†– a really great project).

We want to increase our ability to work with the local community on improving the Eel’s fate, working in particular with local¬†angling clubs, Bristol Aquarium, and local universities. ¬†Eels have such a wealth of history in our area – this project makes the link between eels conservation¬†and the conservation of local food traditions, stories and culture!

We don’t want to¬†rely on donations forever… So we’ve created an innovative model to ensure Eel conservation into the future… ¬†We use the eel’s waste to fertilise edible¬†plants that we can sell locally to raise money – via aquaponics¬†– which we’ve been working with since 2011. Plus we will sell ¬†30%* of our eel intake into the local food system – to shops like the Fish Shop on Gloucester Road, to cover costs of conservation activities into the future! We are a community-led social enterprise and our legal structure is “Community Interest Company” – which means we work for the benefit of the local community¬†rather than¬†to turn a profit.

You can see our story so far in pictures on Instagram

It really makes our hearts ache to think that eels might not be around in the future – please help us to try to change the fate of the eel locally by supporting our crowdfunder!

We’ve tried to put together some unique rewards for contributers – including our funky self-designed Unagi (Eel in Japanese) tote bags:

Thanks for help with our campaign goes out to:

Steve Ace





*inline with the Sustainable Eel Group’s framwork for sustainable eel farming (http://www.sustainableeelgroup.org/)

Circular Economics, Food Waste and Aquaponics

After carefully packing the veg box orders for Matter Wholefoods¬†in Easton,¬†Jon agrees that I can take the bumped, bruised and past-it veg that didn’t make the veg-box cut over to the warehouse to give to Heather¬†to cook up for the eager warehouse occupants currently hiring our classroom space for 10 days for some time-constrained charity fundraiser work. On the way I drive by the lovely Park Bakery on St John’s Lane and¬†they donate some of their yesterday’s bread to the cause. I’m greeted with smiling faces when I arrive on site. If we go back Wednesday evening we may even get cake I whisper to Heather out of earshot of the volunteers.

We have access in our neighbourhood to a lot of waste streams. Fruit and veg waste, bread, spent brewery grain and trub (yeast) – we intend to¬†find ways to reduce this waste, by turning it into feed for new processes (circular economics) – as part of wanting to build a truly¬†regenerative farm. This in mind, we did – way back on our pilot site –¬†some experiments with¬†Black Soldier Fly – Hermetia illucens¬†(a common fly of the family¬†Stratiomyidae)¬†and include them in our commercial aquaponics course. This year Beca Beeby from Humble by Nature (She is literally Lord of the Flies) is coming to share her unique experience of farming with black soldier flies in the system as part of our commercial aquaponics course in May.

With our flies we had some issues with low libido, and stench, but we made it in the end once we build our ‘mile high club’ for our flies. And they are amazing insects!

HermetiaillucensBlack Soldier Fly Larvae compost a diverse range of food waste streams and their prepupae (tough shell-covered bodies that look a bit like woodlice) are then a resource-efficient and high nutrient substitute for wild-catch fishmeal (highly unsustainable) that could have a significant beneficial economic and environmental impacts.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) as a feed have been trialled extensively on the small scale for over 30 years, and are found to be a compelling potential commercial feedstuff for other food-animals. When dried (for easy storage) the prepupae (BSFP) contain 42% protein and 35% fat. In combination with other ingredients, BSFP have been trialled successfully as a feed for rainbow trout and catfish achieving good growth and health results. Studies indicate that BSFP can replace >25% of a fish meal in a diet with no negative effect on growth in rainbow trout and in channel catfish – so we think it will be similar for our eels.

The big one for us down’t farm is that insects could be legally used in¬†fish¬†feeds in Europe as early as next July after the EU voted in December to accept proposed amendments to legislation governing farmed insects used in animal feeds. Not that we were worried –¬†Food safety and bacterial considerations for using this feed are so far favorable. In China, the USSR, USA, Mexico and Eastern Europe BSFP have been fed to poultry, pigs, shrimp, various species of fish, turtles and frogs¬†– no problems. Moreover anti-microbial factors were recorded reducing the chance of feed transmitting pathogens wherein BSFL have been shown to significantly reduced¬†E. coli¬†0157:H7 and¬†Salmonella enterica¬†in hen manure (pretty good going).

You can buy Black Soldier Fly Larvae from our shop if you want to try to grow them for yourself.

Oh and here is my Black Soldier Fly reading list with references from the above:

Newton, G. L., C. V. Booram, R. W. Barker, and O. M. Hale. 1977. Dried Hermetia illucens larvae meal as a supplement for swine. J. Anim. Sci. 44:395-399.

St-Hilaire, S., K. Cranfill, M. A. McGuire, E. E. Mosley, J. K. Tomberlin, L. Newton, W. Sealey, C. Sheppard, and S. Irvin. 2007b. Fish ofal recycling by the black soldier fly produces a foodstuff high in Omega-3 fatty acids. J. World Aquaculture Soc. 38:309-313.

Newton, L., C. Sheppard, W. Watson, G. Burtle, and R. Dove. 2004. Using the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, as a value-added tool for the management of swine manure. Univ. Of Georgia, College of Agric. & Environ. Sci., Dept. Of Anim. & Dairy Sci. Annual Report.

St-Hilaire, S., C. Sheppard, J. K. Tomberlin, S. Irving, L. Newton, M. A. McGuire, E. E. Mosley, R. W. Hardy and W. Sealey. 2007a. Fly prepupae as a feedstuff for rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. J. World Aquaculture Soc. 38:59-67.

Newton, L., C. Sheppard, W. Watson, G. Burtle, and R. Dove. 2004. Using the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, as a value-added tool for the management of swine manure. Univ. Of Georgia, College of Agric. & Environ. Sci., Dept. Of Anim. & Dairy Sci. Annual Report.

“Research Summary: Black Soldier Fly Prepupae – A Compelling Alternative to Fish Meal and Fish Oil”

Erickson, M. C., M. Islam, C. Sheppard, J. Liao, and M. P. Doyle. 2004. Reduction of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis in chicken manure by larvae of the black soldier fly. J. Food Protection. 67:685-690.





2017 Commercial Aquaponics Course

Are you interested in joining our commercial aquaponics course this year?

Unlike previous years, this year we plan on squeezing our aquaponics course into one week of teaching, hands on and site visits towards the end of May / early June! We plan on working with the same instructors (plus a few new faces) and hope to arrange visits to GrowBristol and BioAqua Farm as well as Hans Hoff’s Arctic Char farm in Dorset.


  • -To make commercial aquaponics accessible
  • -To enable participants to overcome specific production issues through access to specific information and expert guidance;
  • -To enable participants to realise true product value, by taking a systems approach focusing on the entire production cycle and determining the best options for system set up, diversification and sustainability;
  • -To train entry level practitioners in a holistic manner, in response to current challenges to the socioeconomic sustainability of the aquaculture industry in Europe

We are working with as many industry professionals as we can muster up ¬†‚Äď the course is of the highest quality and provides a good framework for someone wanting to set up a system of their own or train in the basics to run a commercial aquaponic system. We plan to charge around ¬£400 per person ‚Äď but we are doing our very best to make sure it‚Äôs not exclusive ‚Äď so if you are interested, please get in touch in anycase to discuss options (email info@bristolfish.org).

We Need You (Thursday 16th 18:30)

we need youGreat Dinner : Great Company : Good Deeds…

Lovely friends of the Fish Project! We need some help this coming Thursday with moving some big items around our warehouse. Those who came for tank washing will know the stuff we are on about!

We will put on some nosh, and we ask you then to come on down around 18:30 WEARING STEEL TOE CAPS (if you don’t have some email us – info@bristolfsh.org and we will see what we can do). Can you come? Please let us know!!!


Wiring your system

That was a real *Its Christmas* moment – coming into the farm yesterday and Sparky Jon handing me sticky labels GRINNNNNNNN

It’s been quite hard to find an electrician that will wire up the farm for us here – as there are no appropriate regs frameworks. 2 came through scratching their heads and left again. We were lucky in the end to find someone that was actually interested in learning for themselves how to best configure things, how to interact with the regs that are available (agriculture – barns + livestock and swimming pools – people in water) and taking into consideration that we work with the community so essentially need additional safeguards. Its still not finished, but when it is I’m going to ask Jon to write up what he’s done and will share it here and via BAQUA CIC

WhatsApp Image 2017-03-07 at 14.25.07

Community food in the context of the Historic shift from regional to centralised AgriFood in the UK

The establishment of community food growing – is a bit of a throwback if we consider our food history in the UK – something that was much more normal up until the 1960’s. So what happened to our community food system and how did our food system become so¬†complex and centralised?

It seems that the first major changes to community-scale food (apart from the shorter term wartime centralised control of production) occurred in part due to pressures of post-war rationing continuing well into the 50‚Äôs and by the loss of control of the UK’s food-productive colonies (seems counter intuitive doesn’t it). Concurrently the UK faced an increasing population growth rate bolstered by mass production of new medicines (such as antibiotics) and extensive improvements to the health system. So out the end of WWII, the UK food system began its real shift towards the complex international and interconnected supply chain to which we’ve become accustomed today.

The rapid intensification of farming that occurred during the 60‚Äôs became known as the green revolution ‚Äď a term coined by former USAID director William Gaud. This rapid intensification was made possible by the research (amongst others) of Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug during his time at the Cooperative Wheat Research Production Program, a venture involving the Rockafeller Foundation and Mexican Ministry of Agriculture. There Borlaug seeking to breed disease resistant strains of wheat, trialled over 6000 crossings in 10 years.¬† His techniques involved introduction of new practices and varieties of crops along with intensive pesticide and fertiliser use¬† setting out the basic tenants of the green revolution. Though widely lauded as a success story; Borlaug himself understood that the root issues of the food system were not addressed by his green revolution which he saw rather as giving humanity ‚Äúbreathing space‚ÄĚ to figure out how to tackle challenges of food and nutritional poverty (Borlaug’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech). In later year‚Äôs the green revolution was criticised for excluding the poorest of farmers who were unable to cope with the additional costs of fertilisers, pesticides and seeds and with water intensive practices. In particular the displacement of the rural poor and smaller agricultural holdings in order to accommodate larger farms was subject to much media Attention.

As the centralisation and rationalisation of the UK’s agrifood production regained sufficiency of production, the internationalisation of finance enabled the connecting of national economies and led to the emergence of the mass transport of foodstuffs (hobsbawm 1975, Cain and Hopkins, 1993) and the dawning of the now conventional global food system. This interconnection has been highly successful, reducing local and seasonal shortages and paving the way for levelling of food prices between industrialised nations (Winter, 2003), in particular across the EU via CAP. Advocacy for Free Trade has been of huge significance, and although concerns around the potential for monopoly capitalism (Hobsbawm, 1987) and for tariff reform have been aired, for the most part a laissez-faire approach has dominated (Winter, 2003).

This said this conventional system has become challenged by the concerns of decreased food security and food system resilience (the 2008 food crisis is of recent note) and since the 1980‚Äôs it has become clear that the gradual intensification of farming, increased farm size, mechanisation and pesticide and fertiliser use necessitated by the said green revolution is having numerous negative impacts. Pollution of surface and groundwater; degradation of soils including soil erosion, compaction, and loss of fertility; loss of habitats; air pollution ‚Äď all lead to the concern that the conventional system may not be a sustainable means to feed our global population and its progeny indefinitely. We consider the current system to be insecure and unsustainable.


Ideational and institutional policy stretching – schematic example of British food policy (Feindt 2009)

The evolution of concerns is echoed in evolving UK food policy concerns. Food safety, productivity and efficiency policies – beginning in the nineteenth century were some of the first national regulatory frameworks (Ansell and Vogel, 2006). Subsequent policies were more focussed around food security in response to various crisis, until the 1970‚Äôs where these shifted to issues of quality, environment, nutrition, health, tradition, cuisine, and consumer choice. It is noteworthy that, as new policies are introduced, rather than remove older ones, these have tended to remain; creating a constant need to reinterpret these along with their associated power-relationships and actors. Peter Feindt at Cardiff University refers to this as policy layering and stretching (Feindt 2009). So these policies so far haven’t been particularly ¬†community food oriented, building rather on a foundation of centralisation policies.

¬†More recent policy statements referring to the future of UK food take a sustainable systems view which perhaps makes more space for community food. In the 2002 report on the foot and mouth outbreak Gabriel Scally, director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments at the University of the West of England suggested the aim of ‚Äúa farming and food sector that is profitable and sustainable, that can and does compete internationally, that is a good steward of the environment and provides healthy food to people in England and around the world.‚Ä̬† (Policy Commission – Future of Farming and Food- 2002)

The Labour government‚Äôs 2008 cabinet report recommends the UK work towards ‚Äúa future of food that is far more sustainable‚ÄĒeconomically, environmentally and socially. It is a future where consumers are able to access healthy, low-impact food that fits their lifestyles and time pressures‚ÄĚ (Cabinet Office Strategy Unit – Food Matters -Towards a strategy for the 21st Century 2008). However in practice, since the arrival of the coalition government in 2010, work on this transition has been ceded in favour of a return to a laissez faire approach and several promising projects have been abandoned including the healthier food mark for public catering and the healthy schools programme.

That seems roughly speaking to be where we are at with the centralised food system at the moment – although Brexit amongst other changes will no doubt impact on how top-down approaches treat our food system.

Closing the system (loop)

A recent article in the Guardian reports on the start-ups that may be defining the future of agri-tech from the Nobel week dialogue in Stockholm. Luckily for us Caleb Harper, director of¬†Open Agriculture¬†at the MIT was there to point to how sensor-controlled systems are part of the answer. ‚ÄúWe are slaves to climate in agriculture. But what if we could give every country access to good weather?‚ÄĚ he said.
It reminds us of when¬†Bristol Fish Project was picked up on by¬†Tree Hugger many moons ago (2012) justifying aquaponics thus:¬†“The increased control that closed farming systems give us can protect crops from blight, rain damage, frosts, drought. This complex and unpredictable future poses new challenges to agriculture that highlight the importance of developing systems like RAS and aquaponics. Aquaponics permits the farmer to be more efficient with water, to control light-levels, heat, and nutrition, and to protect crops from the elements“.