Interviewed & Written by Kira Ginter
Carel van Heerden is a mechanical engineer who is working to promote sustainability by providing mechanisms that work towards zero-waste food production and zero-hunger. His interest in sustainability stems from wanting to do something new and beneficial in a different way than his past work; he does this by promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) through aquaponics.
As some general background, Carel graduated from university with a mechatronic engineering degree before going on to work several years with different companies that did things all the way from air-purification to sulfur removal to working with heart valves to help prevent deaths from certain major heart diseases. Carel has done a little bit of everything, but his newest career path, with aquaponics incorporates something that has always been a passion of his into his daily work life.
Carel’s goal in working with aquaponics is to create more accessible food streams for people from all walks of life. Aquaponics allows people to grow food year-round without fear of soil-borne diseases destroying the crops or using herbicides or pesticides. Since chemicals are not necessary to keep away pests, it allows there to be a much cleaner, food stream and cycle. Aquaponics systems provide more than one form of food as well. People can eat both the fish from the system and the plants grown hydroponically.
The ability of aquaponics to yield food year-round helps to promote zero-hunger, zero-waste food production, and sustainable food sources amongst other Sustainable Development Goals.
On the plant production side of things, people can choose to grow whatever caters towards their own personal preferences whether it be greens, fruits, or vegetables. The crops grown in this setting are more nutritious because they are grown in a living ecosystem, so the food they provide is better for the consumer. Due to being a part of a living ecosystem, the crops contain more vitamins and minerals/ active ingredients. The fish utilized in this process can also be specialized to the customer based on preference; thus, ensuring consumer satisfaction.
Overall, the process of farming via aquaponics allows people to grow their own food supplies and to become more self-sufficient. As the number of aquaponics facilities increases, the number of people making better food choices for both themselves and the environment will increase as well. Aquaponics is a way to grow food, but it is also more than that, it is a tool that can be given to people and utilized to help better their lives, increase their sustainability, and improve their communities.
van Heerden, Carel. Personal interview. 28 Oct. 2022.