Mendlesham farming company pioneers new growing technology

Stephen Gleeson
Stephen Gleeson

A farming business that specialises in growing chillies is pioneering a new growing system which uses fish to help fertilise the crops.

A so-called aquaculture system has been set up at The Chilli Company, off the A140 at Mendlesham.

Adrian Nuttall, co-owner of the business with wife Denise, says that the fish and plants have a mutually supporting relationship.

The system is a combination of aquaculture - the farming of fish and other aquatic creatures, and hydroponics - the farming of plants in water with nutrients, but without soil. The fish, in this case rainbow trout, are kept in a tank.

The fish excrement that builds up is then broken down by bacteria ultimately into nitrates. This nutrient-rich water can then be sent to the plants. The plants remove the nutrients as fertiliser and also clean the water. The water is then once again safe for the fish to live in and is recycled.

The result is two products: the plant, and the edible rainbow trout. The only input is the food for the fish. Crucially, it saves the business from buying costly fertilisers.

“There’s only one person doing it commercially in the UK,” said Mr Nuttall.

He said the project could be scaled up to 3,500 fish, from just nine currently, and to 22,000 plants if the trial was a success, a move which could possibly attract grant funding.

“Part of our businesses seems to have extended to different growing techniques,” said Mr Nuttall.

The farm sells a wide range of chillies and more in its cafe, deli, shop and nursery.