postmodernlogo_pmd1        One of the maxims of Dr. D has to do with the quantity of fish a farmer tries to grow within a given volume of water.  This is an extremely important concept as it speaks directly to the business plan of the farm as well as the personal philosophy of the farmer.  Simply put, the more fish in any given area the more chance of problems (See Erlich’s The Population Bomb for a more expansive, perhaps historically inaccurate in the timing of its predictions but nonetheless excellent gateway into the density challenge as it pertains to humanity in its closed-system planet). The amount of life per quantity of living space is referred to as biodensity.  It is important to understand that we aren’t talking about the number of fish necessarily, but the total weight of the fish in the water.  A farmer with a million minnows or fingerlings will have fewer problems as a rule than one with a thousand four pound fish in the same amount of water.  This is because the larger fish need more of everything, especially oxygen and feed, and produce more waste.  So keeping track of biodensity is vital.  In fact, biodensity is truly a calculation not simply of the stress on the system, but of stress on the farmer.  The more fish, the more stress.  How much stress any farmer wants can be calculated and adjusted in this way.  I can keep one fish alive in a badly designed system forever.  But I can’t keep a lot of fish alive in that system.  And where my personal health in keeping the fish alive is affected, I am concerned.

The density of fish in a system is a calculation of desire for production of final product, which is one of the factors of profit.  America’s big agrobusinesses spend much money on creating the highest biodensities any system can maintain without killing the animals or crops.  Thus, livestock may live their entire lives indoors standing in their own filth being force fed grain shoulder to shoulder with the next animal.  This life stresses an animal and stress causes immune system failures.  When an animal’s immune system goes down, that animal is susceptible to disease.  Disease in a crowded farm is a potential disaster.  So along with that grain is fed antibiotics and often growth hormones.  You can take your own view of this system; it does feed the world.  I don’t envision that degree of density as God’s ideal farm.  God’s farm maintains a balance between what an animal can naturally tolerate in density and what a farmer needs from his crop in terms of yield.

Is the farm a net profit maker and if so by how much?  What Dr. D and I by extension as his acolyte recommend is to build on the cheap, utilizing used equipment and whenever possible self-made solutions to design challenges.  The old joke in the aquaculture industry goes like this:  How do you make a million dollars in aquaculture?  You start with four million dollars and lose three.  It is a clever joke until you begin farming and expenses seem to rapidly outstrip the growth of product.  Thus, when fish are finally market size and you feel the smoothness of cash cross your palm for that first hundred pounds of fish sold, it will be a natural reaction to think, the more fish sold, the more quickly I get out of debt.  Dr. D recommends a farmer never get into debt so that he or she never feels the need to get out.  I and my co-op farmers are alike in being somewhere in the middle class working scale, from technicians to real estate salesmen, teachers to carpenters (like that original fisher of men).  All of us went into debt to learn to raise the Jesus fish and build our versions of God’s perfect farm.  As God would have it, my wife and I represent the last farm operating of the old co-op, everyone else having gone under due almost exclusively to sales not matching debt payments, although one highly successful farm went under through deceit and divorce.  Still, profit is a huge consideration and a motivator toward wickedness in the growing system.

Keep the density of fish low to begin with.  Live off the tilapia as food at least four times a week.  Tilapia is such a clean and mild meat it can be made into anything wonderful from breakfast burritos to dinner crepes.  And the protein is great for you and your family.  It is also becoming one of the more expensive items to buy at the store, what with 90% of the ocean fish high on the food chain having disappeared.  So use your farm (even if it is only a backyard pool full of fish) to reduce family food costs.  There is something intuitive, something of the ancient native, in pulling out fish from your system, cleaning them, seasoning them to taste, and cooking them up to place on the dinner platter, that fills a man or woman’s spirit with the grace of God.  So little in our modern world offers us the connection to our primal nature; in fact, to a great extent only sex and violence still offer this primal connection as everything else has been packaged and commercialized and so has removed us from our original divine design of doing for ourselves with our thumb-opposed hands.  When is the last time you cleaned a fish, red blood puddle before you, scales flying, one stuck to your cheek like knight’s armor, the fish’s digestive system carefully removed from the body, life in all its complexity and fragility literally slipping through your fingers, life taking becoming life giving?  Cleaning an animal for your own consumption, to feed your family, is one of God’s intentions for humanity.  It is maybe not for the squeamish, but God did intend for the others of us to feed the blessed squeamish as well.  This is controlled slaughter for food and it is a sacred moment.  I find it fulfilling to thank the fish for their sacrifice just before I begin the cleaning ritual much as the Native American tribes were said to have done in their eco-perfect times before Western civilization destroyed their Eden and them along with it.

Keep the density of your fish as low as possible every step up your learning curve.  Tilapia will forgive many mistakes in farming.  They can tolerate amazingly low levels of oxygen, their stomach acid is so low that they can remain healthy in water with diseases that would kill other fish. They can tolerate salt water to a certain extent which few fresh water species can, and they can eat and digest almost anything so that errors in feeding are even forgiven. Yet, even eating human feces, as has been experimented in some places, the pathogens do not embed in the comestible meat. Tilapia are designed by God to allow the farmer to make mistakes and still not lose the farm.  So give yourself the leeway of God’s forgiveness, but build in a little extra contentment by sacrificing a little profit and keeping the stress levels down, theirs and yours.