Drawing an association between wood and fish would elude most people, but the simple fact that roughly two thirds of Alabama is covered in trees has major implications for some facets of the state’s aquaculture industry. 

In fact, one expert contends that trees could provide at least some elements of this industry with the competitive advantages sorely needed to compete with foreign-grown products.

Alabama possesses ample amounts of wood — and not just the timber commercially harvested — but also the waste products left behind when these lush green forests undergo occasional thinning.

It’s often said that one’s person trash is a another person’s treasure — a maxim that definitely applies to the state’s fledgling aquaponics industy, according to Gregory N. Whitis, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System aquaculturist, who believes Alabama’s abundance of wood offers distinct advantages to this emerging sector.

Aquaponics is a food production system in which aquatic species, such as tilapia, are grown along with plants within a controlled, mutually sustaining system.  In such a system, the nutrient-enriched water from fish culture is channeled to irrigate nearby plants, whether these happen to be vegetables or herbs.

But one of the factors that has limited growth of this sector until now is the cost of conventional heating, according to Whitis.