Integrating aquaculture components with existing agricultural systems in marginal environments has many advantages. For example, rational use of water resources is attained through recycling, which has the potential to decrease the need for chemical fertilizers. Also, since the nutrients that are produced from aquaculture can be used for cultivation of other plant species, sustainability of the systems can be achieved.
Such integrated approaches have great potential to boost farmers’ income as a result of cultivation of cash crops (vegetables), marine species (fish, shrimp, algae, etc.), and unconventional plants that can grow under highly saline conditions. ICBA is working on identifying such approaches and technologies and testing their adaptability and economic feasibility in marginal environments.
One promising technology is the Integrated Aqua-Agriculture System that ICBA has tested and assessed since 2013. The emphasis under this system is on irrigating crops with aquaculture effluents and brine water from the desalination unit under extremely hot and dry climatic conditions. ICBA, in partnership with other stakeholders, is carrying out economic analyses to examine the economic profitability of the system and identifying ways to improve its potential for replication and scaling out in areas with similar environmental constraints.
ICBA’s mission is to develop sustainable and resilient production systems for marginalized environments, and since its establishment ICBA has explored potential for cultivating halophytic species. Since 2011, ICBA has extensively worked on Salicornia bigelovii (dwarf glasswort) which the Center has identified as a very promising crop either by itself or as a component of integrated systems.
The qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the oil content of Salicornia bigelovii (dwarf glasswort) seeds are similar to those of the seeds of other bioenergy crops. By means of modern biotechnology tools, which make possible specific redesigning of crops to increase or modify the accumulation of lipids, alcohols, hydrocarbons, polysaccharides and other storage compounds, scientists believe that the biofuel potential of Salicornia bigelovii plants could be improved.