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Evaluating the capacity of small farmers to adopt aquaponics systems: empirical evidence from Brazil

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
August, 2021

Aquaponics technology has recently been offered as a good option for sustainable food systems among small-scale farmers, particularly those seeking an organic production or dealing with land quality constraints, such as urban farmers. However, there is a lack of empirical evidence for the capacity of small farmers to adopt the technology. The unique requirements of aquaponics may create technical, economic and even cultural constraints and opportunities. This paper uses empirical evidence gathered with small-scale farmers in São Carlos, State of São Paulo, Brazil, to present the capacity of adoption for the technology, including possible limiting factors and incentives for farmers. The study conducted interviews with owners of ‘agriculturas familiares’ (Portuguese for small family owned farms) within 30 km of São Carlos. The interviews revealed that there is widespread interest in the potential profitability of aquaponics systems, significant interest in environmentally friendly practices, familiarity with organic production and hydroponics and a large base of agricultural knowledge in the community that can drive adoption. However, lack of initial financing, limited human power and concerns about product placement were significant barriers to adoption. For settlement farmers (those working on land formerly abandoned) poor soil quality and water scarcity are key issues that could be alleviated by the technology. The city of Sao Carlos present program for purchasing specific types of products from these farms could be used as a model for increasing aquaponics adoption and relieving success concerns.

Tadeu Fabricio Malheiros
Research Areas
Food Systems and Consumer Products
Food & Agriculture

Aquaponics, Brazil, integrated systems, small-holder farms

Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Brewer, Alexandria, Jose F. Alfaro, and Tadeu Fabricio Malheiros (2021) “Evaluating the capacity of small farmers to adopt aquaponics systems: empirical evidence from Brazil.” Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 36(4): 375-383.