Barriers and Incentives to Engaging with Aquaponics Systems: Empirical Evidence from São Carlos, Brazil
This research presents the barriers and incentives faced by small-scale farmers in engaging in aquaponics systems in the São Carlos, Brazil community. Aquaponics is an agricultural system that combines hydroponics and aquaculture in a symbiotic arrangement to produce vegetables and protein simultaneously. Current research argues that aquaponics can help promote food security, community resiliency, and sustainable agriculture by integrating these versatile and necessarily organic systems into the urban environment. Despite historical use of aquaponics, there is currently a lack of research focused on the social dimensions of this emerging sustainable technology, including an assessment of barriers that may exist for local farmers to engage in aquaponics systems. During May 2018, 21 interviews were conducted with the owners of small farms (in Portuguese, "agriculturas familiares") within 30 kilometers of São Carlos, Brazil. The interviews revealed that there is interest in the potential profitability of aquaponics systems and an existing knowledge base of organics, hydroponics, and agriculture in the community. However, lack of initial financing and time to build the systems were also significant barriers to creating the systems. Cities could reduce this barrier through contracting with local farmers to increase farmer financial stability and reduce perceived risks. Knowledge-sharing workshops should also reduce technical barriers to engagement. These recommendations can be used to address these barriers in São Carlos and could be applied to cities throughout the world as they seek to promote the use of aquaponics and advance their local food security.