New innings: Pro sportsman trades cricket bat for aquaponics


Yasser Parker assumed he had fulfilled his childhood dream by becoming a specialist cricket player. He appreciated his days in front of the crowds, actively playing a sport that took him abroad. Then, 7 decades into his picked occupation, the long term commenced to glimpse much less rosy.

“In my closing calendar year, I went to the Uk to enjoy a time at Stratford-on-Avon cricket club that is when it dawned on me that financially, I was not heading to be ready to get in which I want to be,” 30-calendar year-previous Parker recalled.

 It was time for a new obstacle.

A visit to a modest 1.2 hectare plot in Marondera, a farming city 90km from Zimbabwe’s funds, Harare, currently shows a new, flourishing operation and a very different existence. Parker’s answer to his difficulty? Aquaponics.

Aquaponics is a mixture of fish farming (aquaculture) and hydroponics, a farming process wherever vegetation are developed devoid of soil.

“We deliver jointly fish farming and hydroponics. We use fish squander to develop our vegetation,” Parker explained as he confirmed off his procedure.

“Another way to glance at it is that the fish deliver fertiliser for our crops, and our crops purify the drinking water for the fish it is a symbiotic connection.”

For Parker, the journey from cricket to starting to be a single of the initially farmers to experiment with aquaponics is a circumstance of coincidence and curiosity.

“I did my substantial college at Prince Edward High College in Harare but did not do so effectively I managed to go 4 O-level subjects, maths not provided,” Parker explained. 

In Zimbabwe, five Standard-amount subjects are viewed as the minimum amount for academic progression.

“I moved to Prestige to test to move 5 O-Ranges, which I did not get,” he claimed.

“My mom gave me a option, she needed me to go to Gwebi Agricultural College, but I made a decision to consider up cricket.” 

Possessing hit a wall in his cricketing profession, Parker returned to Zimbabwe without having a very clear plan of how he was to move forward.

“I sat around for about six months to determine out what I needed to do I did a carpentry class at Harare Polytechnic Higher education and inevitably settled for farming,” Parker spelled out.

He was at first drawn to fish farming but info that he identified on the online encouraged a diverse plan.

Stumbling on aquaponics

“We had been supposed to do fish farming on this plot, but one particular working day I was on YouTube and stumbled on aquaponics. I did investigate and realised that this is one thing I could do  and started out the set up.

“Finances at the time were being a little bit difficult, despite the fact that a few months into our enhancement, some traders came and supported the project.”

Without a track record in farming, aquaponics for Parker represented a less complicated choice than standard farming. From his study he realised that successful traditional farming required coming to phrases with complicated problems these types of as soil evaluation, irrigation, fertilisers and weed handle.

That was if he could come across enough land. And then, there were being challenges because of to temperature disorders, specifically with out a water resource for irrigation.

Aquaponics, even though much more expensive to finance at first, supplied an respond to to several of individuals issues.

“You can established it up anywhere, and it can be any measurement from one thing for dwelling use in your yard of 40 sq. metres to anything you see in this article, of 2 500 sq. metres. You can improve everything you have to have to survive in terms of fresh generate and protein. Fresh deliver being the plants and protein coming from the fish,” Parker defined.

Zimbabwe’s small-scale farmers have lengthy faced troubles caused by the rain-fed form of agriculture they go after and, this year the rain was erratic, leaving several farmers counting their losses. Parker thinks if these challenges persist, aquaponics could be regarded a answer.

“In conditions of sustainability, we use 90% significantly less h2o all the water in the technique is recycled,” he claimed.

“We don’t have to dump any water at any time the only drinking water that we drop is by transpiration and evaporation. It is extremely various from your traditional farming approaches with the soil.”

Parker has only just one permanent employee. He employs relaxed staff during the harvest time.

“The day normally commences at 5.30am I scout to make sure vegetation aren’t having attacked by pests or illnesses. Soon after that, I consider readings of the PH and temperature h2o parameters,” he stated.

Frequent assessments in drinking water good quality are built to make sure the ailments, or h2o parameters,  remain conducive for fish farming. Variables checked contain temperature, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity, hardness, ammonia and nitrates.

While hardness and alkalinity do not alter often, oxygen and PH stages fluctuate and have to be periodically checked failure to do so can consequence in the fish dying.

The fish are fed twice a day, from 6am to 10am, then from 4pm to 5.30pm.

Detailing the system, Parker reported the aquaponics process brings together a fish farm and a horticulture farm, with drinking water remaining the connecting component. 

The drinking water results in being wealthy in nutrition around time from squander excreted by the fish. That drinking water is then fed to the horticulture side, exactly where the crops survive entirely on the residue h2o and do not will need soil.

As vegetation absorb nutrients by way of pure organic filtration, they clear the drinking water and it is fed back again to the fish in a cyclical fashion.

Periodically, there is a cleaning process to filter the waste that crops would have failed to take up.

“We drain our filters after a week and mail them into a mineralisation tank, in which we feed the naturally transpiring bacterias with molasses and the microorganisms split down that strong fish squander, and it is an enriched fertiliser again in the technique,” he explained.

According to Parker, even if he is presented a larger piece of land, soil farming is out of the dilemma due to the fact aquaponics is more productive and environmentally helpful.

“I was captivated to the sustainability element I have been next the world-wide disaster because I was young. We are 10 periods more productive for every square metre working with this sort of farming than farming in the soil,” Parker explained.

“For illustration, per acre, we will mature 120 000 heads of lettuce 10 periods a calendar year and come up with 1.2 million heads of lettuce while, in the soil, from what I have read through and what I have been instructed, you are executing 40 000 for every acre [0.4ha] and you are harvesting 3 times a 12 months. It was a no-brainer,” he provides.

Parker, who promises he is the initially to established up a semi-professional aquaponics operation in Zimbabwe, admits that the cost outlay could be restricting for some except if there are traders.

“If you are heading to be location up a hectare, it can be from $400 000 to $1.6-million, based on how significant-tech you want to go.”

He explained the splendor of greenhouse farming is that a person can mechanise and automate nearly everything. 1 can go as automatic as setting up temperature and humidity sensors and automatic computer systems to command a greenhouse with the touch of a cellular phone or pc important. 

Despite the fact that he runs a “fairly basic” set up, Parker hopes to update his programs to the position where by he can command every thing remotely, even while he has a selection of crops.

“We have planted eggplants, lettuce, chillies, and okra and, so significantly, everything has developed effectively the finish intention is to tap into the export market place.

“It is a complicated system this is a little something new to Zimbabwe this has turned into a pilot task. The moment we are ready, we will invite traders to the area times and see if any person is prepared to section approaches with a good total of dollars into the procedure.”

Parker supplies the market place in Marondera and encompassing regions with his deliver. He also hopes to recruit far more persons into aquaponics.

“I have not been mentoring persons but, but we have experienced men and women appear by way of to find out. For example, I am component of the Federation of Youthful Farmers in Zimbabwe and we experienced a mini-industry working day for the girls in the organisation.”

He also hopes to get started a college or university to educate persons about sustainable types of farming. 

“The a lot more people today who can get into this, the greater. There are no chemical compounds that we are spraying onto our plants. No one particular is ingesting anything harmful,” he mentioned.

Parker stays a cricketer at heart despite the rewards he reaps from aquaponics and hopes that his farming undertaking will open the doorway for him to deliver monetary aid to his former club, Aged Hararians.

“One day, when I am in a better place, I will give back, be it by means of sponsoring a group or people,” Parker explained. – chook tale company 





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