I’ve got a couple days at the office here in Antananarivo, so thought I’d spend some time acquainting myself with one of our new aquaponics system. This system is the result of an amalgamation of people’s efforts. Dr. Louis hatched this harebrained scheme, entangled an adventurous funder into the effort (thank you Conservation Grant Fund!), and scraped up much of the necessary materials in Omaha and Madagascar with the MBP and OHDZA teams. It’s amazing what obscure materials Nirina can find in Antananarivo; I guess as a driver/mechanic/problem solver he’s learned where all the best stuff can be found. As Dr. Louis has four permanent field sites plus a genetics lab in Omaha to tend to, Justin stepped in, a genetics lab tech who has since gone off to med school. Before Justin’s departure he worked on our aquaponics unit in the lab in Omaha to learn all that he could, waxed philosophically with Shannon – lab manager and home aquaponicker, scoured the internet and quizzed Greg Fripp from Omaha’s own Whispering Roots. This set Justin up to rig much of the plumbing, troubleshoot bell siphons, and all those aquaponicky things. So all these people did the heavy lifting, and yet I have the glory! I know it it’s not right, but I’m basking anyway.
The glory consists of picking up our little fishy residents. I fondly refer to them as the Murgatroids. I can’t tell them apart, so they only have a surname at the moment. The Murgatroids are a native fish to Madagascar and a species of cichlid, Paratilapia polleni. However, an aquaponics system isn’t complete without plants. M. Rakotomalala Andry, who farms a tidy plot just opposite the gate to the MBP office, yanked up some of his leafy greens to be planted into our system (no coconut coir seed starters here). Hoby (MBP communications master!), Jacquis (newest guardian on the MBP team and fond gardener) and I gently snuggled the vegetables into the rocky substrate of our grow beds. Feeling the sun on our backs as we did this, we thought it might be good to pamper these babies for a few days so with Mamy’s (MBP driver/construction advisor) help we strung a temporary tarp to shade the beds until these young plants adjust to their new surroundings. Now, we’ll wait and see how this baby functions and patiently test the water to guestimate how well our fish, bacteria and plants are working together. This aquaponics project is a testament to resourcefulness and being open to successes and failures until we hit upon a functional, Seussical (maybe not a word, but that didn’t stop me before) system. This wouldn’t be possible without tapping the sometimes hidden talents of colleagues on both sides of the world, so we’ll keep everyone updated as we take this one step at a time.