The standard in aquaculture
Deep Blue Aqua started in 2008 just as the world was experiencing what’s come to be known as the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Started by Brynn Simpson and Grant Brooker, Deep Blue Aqua was established to fill the aquaculture technology supply gap in Southern Africa and to assist in growing the developing aquaculture industry in Africa.
“We decided to start our own company to be responsible for our own destiny,” says Brynn Simpson, Director, Deep Blue Aqua. “Cash is king, is the most significant lesson we learned in our first year of business…Our attitude was if you can survive in an economic slump then hopefully that bodes well for the future but it wasn’t easy.”
Deep Blue Aqua specializes in designing, manufacturing and installing aquaculture and live-holding systems for both fresh and marine species. Aquaculture is the farming of aquatic organisms or more commonly known as fish farming. Simpson says that when deciding what fish to grow, market and land available are the two most important factors to consider. He says that there is a growing demand for tilapia and marine fish species and that there are many benefits to aquaculture.
“The supply of sea food out of the sea is not getting greater,” he says. “But the demand for seafood is growing. We are growing fish on a sustainable basis.”
In just five years, the company has grown to employ 11 people most of whom are technicians. These specialists have substantial experience in aquaculture and live-holding technology, which ranges from abalone to trout farming. Abalone is an edible sea snail. Simpson says it’s the largest contributor to the aquaculture industry in South Africa and is quiet expensive. It’s valued at US$35-45 a kilo.
Aquaponics is a food production system that combines aquaculture with hydroponics which is the cultivation of plants in water.
It’s also known as urban farming. As the future of food and the issue of how to feed Africa have become increasingly critical discussions, urban farming is seen to some as a solution.
moyo, a popular string of restaurants in South Africa, enlisted Deep Blue Aqua to install an aquaponics system at the new moyo by the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.
They wanted aquaponics incorporated into the restaurant with the idea that you are using the fish and the fish waste to feed the plants,” explains Simpson. “And you would obviously use the plants to go into your salads and into your various dishes. They’ve been producing lettuce, herbs, all sorts of stuff that you can actually use in the restaurant. That’s been an exciting project.”
Simpson says you can take the idea even further. “You can actually eat the fish that are in the system. You could be serving fish out of the system to your restaurant clientele,” he adds.
Deep Blue Aqua also provides small portable aquaponics systems for home use. Once set up, the structure can be populated with fish or vegetable seedlings which can be grown and eaten in time.
Another exciting project that Deep Blue Aqua worked on was with South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).
“They do a lot of aquaculture research on marine species,” says Simpson. “We upgraded their equipment and trained guys to run their system. It’s exciting because it’s developing technology that will hopefully be spread a little broader into community based operations…It’s also an opportunity to create jobs and to transfer skills.”
While Deep Blue Aqua works mostly in aquaculture, they’ve installed hotel swimming filtration systems, aquariums, hatcheries and in addition, have designed and built both flow-through and recirculation systems. Deep Blue Aqua also produces a variety of customized products used in aquaculture facilities.
Some of these products include egg incubators, larvae tanks, round tanks and bio-filtration systems.
Future of Aquaculture
Simpson says that the industry has grown some in the last few years.
“There are currently only three Kob farms in South Africa. Hopefully in four or five years, it will be easier to start more farms,” he says.
Looking back at the early days of Deep Blue Aqua, Simpson is optimistic. As the public’s become more aware of aquaculture, the involvement of the government has improved and start-ups are now getting the support they need.
“We’re in an industry in Southern Africa that’s characterized by ‘do it yourself’ first,” says Simpson. “Hopefully as the industry develops, a company like ours, which is quiet niche, will become more in demand and people will realize that we’re an industry that’s worth paying for.”