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Marc Laberge is a fish biologist with over 34 years of expertise in recirculating technology and has been an aquatic consultant since 1991.
Before becoming fascinated by aquaponics, he worked as a fish parasitologist at the McGill University Institute of Parasitology Canadian National Reference Center, where he learned about recirculating systems. Marc‘s consulting contracts varied from living in fishing camps with the Cree Aboriginals of northern Quebec to study the quality and quantity of their fish harvests, to being head designer at Hydro-Nov for various mega recirculating facilities (600+ tonnes) for trout, arctic char and tilapia in China.
Pioneering Commercial Aquaponic Greenhouse
Marc designed and built the unique trout aquaponic system at M.L. Aquaponics Inc. He spent ten years tweaking the variables in a prototype aquaponic laboratory before bringing it to production. While in production, he perfected the system in terms of maximizing output while maintaining the highest possible fish and lettuce quality. Water chemistry-stability was a challenge during the years of laboratory research, but has since been achieved and both fish and lettuce thrive in the systems at M.L. Aquaponics.
Harvest day at the greenhouse October 2012, Dan the manager of ML Aquaponics inc, stands behind a beautiful crop of Boston lettuce.
Daisy holds the first lettuce ever harvested from the commercial facility in Ste Agathe des Monts at ML Aquaponics inc. in 2005. As of October 2016, this facility produced 3.8 million heads of lettuce.
Although we grow trout and Boston lettuce at our aquaponics farm, a wide range of plant-fish combinations can be used in aquaponic systems, from tilapia and tomatoes to catfish and spinach. Since its first sales in June 2005, our company has produced over 3.8 million heads of all-natural lettuce and has managed to firmly stake its share of the Quebec Boston lettuce market despite having the world’s largest traditional chemical hydroponic lettuce producer only half an hour away.
The owner Marc Laberge, holding a raft of lettuce at harvest time in 2007. Optimizing plant growth and health required years of trial and error at a commercial level.
Plant nutrient deficiencies were resolved by mastering the art of sludge composting.
The Boston lettuce is marketed as “Arc-en-ciel-des-Monts” (French for “Mountain Rainbow”) and is available in select stores in the Laurentian and Quebec City regions in the province of Quebec. The name is derived from the type of trout (rainbow) and the company’s location in the mountains north of Montreal. The trout is sold as smoked trout filets to some of the best restaurants in the region. Both hot-smoked and cold-smoked varieties are produced on-site each week using maple wood. Cold smoking produces the well-known raw texture best served thinly sliced with capers. Hot-smoked trout-which is less familiar to many people-has the same delicious smoked flavour as cold-smoked, but with a flaky texture similar to that of perfectly cooked fish.
Years of research in Marc Laberge’s private labs, allowed him to become one of the world pionneers in commercial aquaponics. Here, plant nutrient deficiencies were resolved by mastering the art of sludge composting.
Marc Laberge holding a perfect Boston head of lettuce in his research lab in 1999.
The recirculating aquaculture expertise that Marc Laberge acquired while he was working at the Institute of Parasitology of McGill University in 1987, allowed him to establish clear water aquaponic systems ideal for fragile fish species such as rainbow trout.
Breaking ground on Phase 1, of a 240 metric tonne salmonid aquaponic facility in Construction of the Mirabel facility in Quebec, summer 2016.
Workers pouring cement for the purging tank. Mirabel Québec, 2016.
Raceway construction of aquaponic facility, summer 2016.
Phase 1 – Preliminary study
This is the first step in the designing of a new facility. This is where we decide on what to grow and how much to grow. The size of the facility is usually dependant on either markets, land size or project budget. This is also where we can get a glimpse of potential facility operating costs, and make changes to meet targets.
Phase 2 – Design
Based on drawings done in the preliminary phase, this is where all the construction plans are done by the engineers and draftsmen. After this phase, the client will have all the construction plans, drawings and details of all equipment specifications.
Phase 3 – Equipment purchasing
This phase consists of suggesting equipment to purchase based on the Preliminary Report analyses, and to coordinate the synchronization of deliveries with the construction phase.
Phase 4 – Construction supervision
During this phase, onsite visitations will assure that construction is done following instructions and that equipment installation is properly set-up. System start-up is also performed at the end of this phase, ensuring that everything is working properly.
Phase 5 – Start-Up
During this phase, managers will be trained on site as fish and plants start to grow. Equipment maintenance, job duty descriptions, feed charts, animal well being as well as production flow are a few of the many topics that are discussed.
Other – Project Evaluation
Next to having the markets, design is everything. A poor design will cripple your business costing you thousands of dollars and you may struggle for years trying to achieve success. Before investing in any aquaponic business, have an expert look over your design, many aquaponic failures are giving this field a bad name; a good scientist may not necessarily be a good business person.
Commercial Turnkey facilities now available
Marc Laberge pratique l’aquaponie depuis bientôt 10 ans. Il élève des poissons en-dessous de sa culture de laitues. Mais l’aquaponie reste marginale ici, même si la production est étonnante et qu’elle est très efficace pour lutter contre la pollution.
Reportage La Semaine Verte, Radio-Canada, janvier 2016
Un tel système aquaponique, c’est un système écologique que j’ai développé avec les années. Ici, les laitues dépendent des poissons. Au lieu de nourrir les algues dans un lac, les poissons donnent les engrais naturels et les nitrates pour aider la pousse des laitues. Il y a 10 ans, nous avons été les premiers au Canada et possiblement dans le monde, avec une installation en aquaponie d’une telle ampleur.
Reportage L’Épicerie, Radio-Canada, janvier 2016
Cette ferme aquaponique est située à 45 minutes de route au nord de Montréal au Québec. Sans aucun engrais chimique, aucun insecticide ni fongicide ou algicide, cette serre familiale a déjà produit plus de 2,6 millions de laitues et plus de 121 000 filets de truite fumée depuis sa première récolte en juin 2005. Le tout en utilisant que 2,5 l d’eau par minute. C’est une percée majeure au niveau de la conservation de l’eau. Au fil des années, cette culture aquaponique a réussi à perfectionner ses systèmes pour parvenir à de tels résultats.
Aquaponie France, Juin 2015
Pendant 12 ans, l’aquaponie commerciale au Québec a été incarnée par un seul joueur, mais voilà que de jeunes entrepreneurs lorgnent cette avenue eux aussi. Le pionnier de l’aquaponie au Québec, Marc Laberge, a commencé en 2004 à cultiver des laitues Boston au-dessus d’un bassin de truites arc-en-ciel à Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, dans les Laurentides.
La Terre de chez Nous, Avril 2017
Since the early 1990’s, Marc Laberge, founder and president of the Canadian company ML Aquaponics inc., dreamed of designing the perfect fish farm after managing a large one in Quebec, and working as a fish parasitologist at the McGill University Institute of Parasitology, where he learned about recirculating systems. The experience enabled him to approach the field of aquaponics, from the fish side of it contrary to most people who approach from the plant side and find that raising fish can be difficult, especially high end fish.
Horti Daily, Avril 2014
On se trouve à Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts au quartier général de Marc Laberge dans une très grande serre lui servant de centre de recherche sur l’aquaponie. Il est l’instigateur de cet énorme projet où depuis plus de vingt ans il bosse dur afin de trouver l’équilibre entre tous les éléments qui vont composer la toile finale de son ambition. Le but ultime, trouver l’harmonie entre l’élevage de poisson et la culture de végétaux afin que le premier serve au deuxième tout en exploitant l’eau comme fil conducteur.
Deux Entremetteurs, Février 2016