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From pig farmer to fish farmer. Christer Wannebro had been a pig farmer for 25 years. In 2018, his stables needed renovation, and he felt a strong curiosity to start something new professionally. In that year, he took part in a seminar about circular on-farm aquaculture and decided to give it a try. If one visits Christer’s farm today, he will find no pigs left in the stables. Instead, the buildings are filled with tanks of fish producing another type of food, while the nutrient-rich residues from fish production are used as fertiliser on the fields around the farm.

The production system used on Christer’s farm was invented by the Swedish company Scandinavian Aquasystems AB under the name Gårdsfisk (“farm fish”).

Gårdsfisk is the creation of two young Swedes who wanted to produce the world’s most sustainable fish. They began their adventure in 2013. In 2021 they decided to take it a step further, launching a new company, Scandinavian Aquasystems, to allow more people to implement the same sustainable production system.

The on-farm aquaculture system is designed to reduce the environmental impact of food production, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and integrate crop production. Gårdsfisk supplies spawning fish to the farm and then buys back mature fish to either fillet, mince, or smoke them in their own facilities.

Christer was among the first to invest in Gårdsfisk’s production system. Being an early adopter of new technology meant a lot of trial, errors and challenges along the way; also, the conversion from traditional farming to aquaculture has meant a lot of work. During the build-up years, Christer has worked harder than previously to get everything up and running. The build-up phase of the production system took place in 2019-2020, and in May 2020 the first fish entered the tanks. A full production system has been up and running since December 2021. The total investment was around 12 million Swedish crowns (~ €1.3 million), of which EU funding has been covering a part, helping substantially Christer’s enterprise.

The production system on the farm has changed completely, by integrating land-based fish farming with traditional crop production. The Gårdsfisk concept also makes it possible to produce sustainable food in a circular process, where waste from the fish is used as fertiliser on the surrounding fields. Two different fish species are produced in the stables. These are Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and African sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus). There are between 1,500 and 2,000 fish in each tank. Both species are omnivores and can be fed with more sustainable fodder than is possible with other aquaculture species.

As a next step, Christer is thinking about how to exploit the residues and waste heat from fish production even better in the future. One idea is to invest in an aquaponics system with a greenhouse, for which he will apply again for EU funding, given the successful original experience. Meanwhile, the Gårdsfisk concept is growing in Sweden. There are several other applications in the Swedish EMFAF (European Maritime and Aquaculture Fund) to start on-farm aquaculture. This is the essence of the Green Deal: from farm to fork and blue growth.