Melbourne Aquaponics

Jonathan Martinetto | Founder of Melbourne Aquaponics

Jonathan Martinetto | Founder of Melbourne Aquaponics

By: Jonathan Martinetto | Founder of Melbourne Aquaponics

About the author: Jonathan Martinetto is the founder of Melbourne Aquaponics, a business with the aim to spread sustainable food production techniques through aquaponics. He is also the author of the digital aquaponics manual “The art of Aquaponics”, a comprehensive guide to successful aquaponics management.

Jonathan Martinetto.png

Melbourne Aquaponics and Barefoot Solutions

I am personally a big fan and lover of permaculture, and always happy to hear and learn from new permaculture initiatives around the world. When I first came across Barefoot solutions I was intrigued and curious to discover the application of permaculture in Africa. Their website provides plenty of valuable information and has helped me to get a better understanding of their work and accomplishments. I have particularly appreciated the technical articles such as the one about the banana circles! There is so much we can do when we apply the right technique and work with nature…

I deeply believe aquaponics could also bring additional benefits. I have thus contacted the team as I would love to share my experience and passion with the Barefoot solutions community. So here we are.

What is aquaponics and why it represents an opportunity for the African continent…

Aquaponics is a food production technique involving fish and vegetables. Unlike most mass food production techniques, aquaponics is a real ecosystem where fish, bacteria and plants but also fungus, worms and insects work altogether. Aquaponics use the natural cycle of life also known as “nitrogen cycle”. Nothing is lost! Like in a forest or a river, everything is recycled. The waste of one species are used as a source of food for the others. No pesticides are used. The smallest amount of insecticide would damage the bacteria population that is playing a key role in the aquaponics ecosystem. Pest are regulated thanks to natural predators present in the ecosystem. Nature is doing the job by itself.

Tilapia .png

Why is it so well adapted to the African continent?

One of the main advantages of aquaponics is the supply of water required. As aquaponics work as a closed system, the water is recycled and kept, as opposed to a classic garden where it would be lost in the soil. The result is quite significant; this method actually consumes 10 times less water than in a classic garden and produces twice as much! Light and temperature also play an important role, so it seems it shouldn’t be an issue on this continent.

In Africa where water is such a scarce resource, this solution seems to be an interesting choice and avenue for food production.

What type of fish and vegetables can we grow in aquaponics?

A large number of fish is adapted for aquaponics in Africa. Among them, the tilapia and catfish. Those are hardy and adapted to warm water conditions. In aquaponics they will produce a nice flesh and offer nitrogen to the system.

From a plants perspective aquaponics allow to grow a large variety of species. To note though, leafy plants such as lettuce, spinach and silver beet are the easiest to grow. 

Tomatoes R.JPG

What type of investment does aquaponics require?

When we talk about aquaponics it is important to differentiate commercial aquaponics and backyard aquaponics.

Commercial aquaponics generally use the 2 large scale techniques that are Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and Deep Water Culture (DWC). The aim of this article being to give you a light overview of aquaponics, we will not detail those 2 techniques here.

The third technique accessible to everyone who desire to grow some food in their backyard is called grow-bed aquaponics. The simplest version consists of 2 tanks, one on top of the other. The bottom tank houses fish and the top tank is filled with rocks where vegetables grow.

Aquaponics system.JPG

In terms of investment a backyard aquaponics can be achieved with a very limited budget and recycled materials. Commercial aquaponics will request more expensive equipment and a greenhouse in order to maximize the system productivity.

What maintenance is required?

Nature is doing the job for you and takes care of everything. The ecosystem auto balances itself as long as the condition offered are adapted. The maintenance of an aquaponics system is mainly to feed the fish and maintain correct water parameters. There are no back breaking labour, weeding, watering or spraying required. As you can tell, maintenance tasks are very limited.

With few recycled tanks you can build a system producing fish and vegetables in your own backyard without effort!

Where to start?

Free Aquaponics Guide.jpg

Aquaponics is an effective solution to locally produce sustainable, healthy and tasty food. The only challenge being to offer and maintain a good environment to your ecosystem. Yes, specific knowledge in biology is required but don’t be intimidated, everybody is able to learn the basics and get started. My aim with Melbourne Aquaponics is to allow you to learn the needed basic knowledge to build and manage your own aquaponics system. You will find a free aquaponics training here that will help you to build your first aquaponics system and start producing sustainable, healthy and tasty food in your backyard!

If you need any further support we have an aquaponics website with a blog covering most of aquaponics questions. Click on the button below.

Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp


Mfangano lies on the Eastern part of Lake Victoria in the Homa Bay county of Kenya. 65 km² with a population of approximately 17,000 and home to the Wasuba tribe who were originally refugees from Uganda around 400 years ago.

 Lake Victoria | Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

 Lake Victoria | Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Traditionally the people of the Island are fishermen, they fish for ‘omena’ sardines at night using lights to lure the fish into their nets. This is a dangerous occupation and also produces a lot of wasted by-catch such as juvenile Nile Perch. Tilapia are also netted in great numbers close to the shoreline and with no regulated fishing procedures the practices have become unsustainable with fish stocks seeing massive reductions over the past few years. There is a minimal amount of subsistence farming carried out on the Island using the highly destructive slash and burn method which has rendered great swathes of the landscape barren and susceptible to desertification.

Tilapia from Lake Victoria | Permaculture on Mfangano Island

Tilapia from Lake Victoria | Permaculture on Mfangano Island

Since we hosted our first guests in 1990 Mfangano Island Camp has been the only major hotel on the Island welcoming people from all over the world, we have created many jobs, assisted communities and families and become firmly integrated in Island life building schools and clinics in various villages. We believe that it is our duty and responsibility to preserve the heritage of the community as well as being a driving force for positive change.  We now wish to take this train of thought further by establishing truly sustainable development which will empower the community and allow them to progress independently without relying wholly on outside funds or influence.

Through mutual friendships, interests and good old serendipity we teamed up with the Barefootsoulutions team with the aim to initiate a drastic change in mindset on an island wide scale hopefully allowing the islanders to prosper with work, food and nutritional security. After an initial site visit we sent two of our staff members to Kilifi where they successfully completed a PDC course.


The Garden

a showcase and training centre for the local community on Mfangano Island

The team then returned to the camp where we first focused on our own carbon footprint setting up a now thriving garden, revamping our waste water management, kitchen waste and plastic recycling. We are well on the way to producing 80 percent of our vegetables and fish by the end of 2017. This garden has become a show case and training centre for the local community and with the help of Barefootsoulutions we will be running regular workshops held on building low emission and low consumption wood burners, eco friendly building techniques and encouraging sustainable agriculture, fish farming and aquaponics.

Composting | Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Composting | Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Already we have implemented a project at a local primary school with astounding success. We have found that through a connection with nature some of the children struggling academically have thrived and the community as a whole has rallied around the idea of sustainability raising funds amongst themselves to fence the school and donate seedlings.


Permaculture on Mfangao Island | Governor's Camp

Our eventual goal is to spread the Permaculture message throughout the island and have a collective of farmers who can supply the camp and the island with food creating sustainability and abundance. We look forward to an exciting future working with the Barefoot team.

Sukuma Wiki Forest

Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governor's Camp

If you are interested in improving your eco rating and implementing a permaculture approach to your lodge, hotel or restaurant please visit our "Course" page and sign up for the next Permaculture Design Course (PDC).