Transylvania is a region rich in biodiversity and with a long agricultural tradition. The progressive land abandonment, particularly by young people, and the climate change issues are seriously threatening the conservation of biodiversity and the survival of agricultural communities in the area.
It is possible to respond to these challenges by promoting a sustainable agricultural and rural development. There are alternative solutions to conventional agriculture, which include traditional and modern methods of cultivation.
Rediscovering ancient knowledge and traditional methods (polyculture, crop rotation, organic fertiliser,…) can help preserve the agricultural environment: preventing water dispersion, avoiding soil erosion and maintaining high levels of soil productivity.
In addition to traditional techniques, modern methods of cultivation are spreading throughout Transylvania, such as growing methods without soil. Plants are cultivated in a liquid solution (aeroponics, floating hydroponics,…) or on substrates (in containers full of sand or gravel, in bags,…).
These techniques can be open-loop, when the nutrient solution is used on a soil culture or released to the environment, or closed-loop, when the solution is recovered and reused in the system.
Attila Szabó-Bilibok is the first farmer in Transylvania to use an aquaponics system.
Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants). Fish and plants are grown together in a symbiotic environment: the fish waste provides an organic food source for the plants, and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish. This technique has very ancient roots, going back to the Aztec and Chinese empires, but its benefits are being studied and rediscovered only starting from the 80s.
Aquaponics needs about 2% of the amount of water used in conventional agriculture, since the same water is recycled and circulates through the structure thanks to a pump system. In addition, it is environment friendly, because any kind of chemical pesticides would kill the fish.
In his aquaponic system Attila grows crucian carps and cultivates many species of plants, among which some that don’t usually thrive in the Romanian weather: tomatoes, aloe vera, paprika and watercress. It is possible to reserve a visit to his farm in the village of Kisgalambfalva and to stay overnight at his B&B by visiting the Facebook page.
Authors: Francesca Silvestri and Cristina Vasile