Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA)

Definition - What does Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) mean?

Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) refers to the process of providing byproducts such as waste from an aquatic species to fertilize a plant or feed another aquatic species. The entire process is a form of recycling. The concept and practice are not new. Multi-trophic aquaculture has been widely used in China for centuries.

In recent years, combining hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) with the process of aquaculture (raising fish) has become a very popular form of IMTA.

Fish waste naturally produces very high concentrations of nitrogen. In the recirculating system of IMTA, the nitrogen-rich waste is used to fertilize the plants. The runoff water is then returned to the fish tank. IMTA has become a popular way to grow herbs, lettuce, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, and ornamental flowers.

Aquaponics is a form of IMTA; however, IMTA encompasses much more than just fish being raised to grow plants.

MaximumYield explains Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA)

Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system (IMTA) systems are not only being used in greenhouses, but also in ocean settings such as near Indonesia, where locals grow tilapia that fertilize the seaweed to grow the shrimp.

In desert areas of the world, where water is at a premium, nutrient-rich water that shrimp and fish live within is cycled through hydroponically grown plants and back to the fish. Both the vegetable crops and the fish are regularly harvested for human consumption.

IMTA is a way to efficiently farm several food sources such as fish and vegetables in a limited space area and ensure that both the fish and the plants form a symbiotic relationship. In parts of the world with limited resources, IMTA systems help conserve the existing resources and still yield maximum farming results.

In IMTA, the word 'integrated' refers to the sophisticated cultivation method being used (a combination of water-borne nutrient and energy transfer is being used), while 'multi-trophic' means that the different species involved in the system are from different levels on the food chain.

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