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The aquaponics system at Tigmandru, Romania, Church of the Nazarene.
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Romania church installs aquaponics system
Tigmandru, Romania
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The Church of the Nazarene in Tigmandru, Romania, is installing an aquaponics system this month to grow fish, fruit, and vegetables.

Kyle Petrie, who helped develop a aquaponics system on the rooftop of a Nazarene church in Jerusalem, Israel, assisted the Tigmandru church in planning and installing the system.

The system includes three tanks to raise fish and a section to grow strawberries, peppers, and lettuce. The produce will be given to families in the church and will create income for the congregation, said missionary Roberta Bustin.

"We want to minister to the whole person, so we try to have a holistic ministry," Bustin said. "Very few [in the village] have permanent jobs. Almost nobody in the church has a job. As part of our ministry to them, we try to provide some part-time jobs for some people."

Besides the aquaponics system, the church currently has a greenhouse and a sewing workshop and is hoping to start a woodworking shop this fall, all to equip people with vocational skills and opportunities for income.

The aquaponics system is self-sustaining, endlessly circulating water between the live fish and the plants. The fish will grow in the tanks, their waste creating ammonia and other byproducts. The waste-filled water will then pass through another tank that holds pieces of fired clay tile and brick that will filter out solvent waste and create an environment for bacteria to grow. The bacteria will convert the ammonia to nitrates, which the plants need to survive and grow.

The plants absorb the nitrates with their roots directly in the water — no soil is involved. This allows the plants to grow three to five times faster than plants in soil normally do, which means the church can triple its harvest over the usual growing season. The water then flows back into the fish tank.

Strawberries in Romania have a short growing season, which means that prices for strawberries are high compared to other fruits and vegetables. The church expects to sell more strawberries with the multiple harvests than other farmers could do, according to Bustin.

"We give away a lot of the food from the greenhouses and also people that come and work in the greenhouses sometimes get paid with money and sometimes with produce," she said. "This is another opportunity to provide food to people."

The church will begin with catfish, which can withstand a wide range of temperatures; in the fall, when it is cooler, they plan to obtain trout.

The Tigmandru church raised money for two years to start the project. A church in New York made the initial contribution. The Church of the Nazarene in Gelnhausen, Germany, held a bazaar from which their raised funds also went to support the aquaponics project, which they sent through Helping Hands Germany.
--Church of the Nazarene Eurasia Region
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