Fish farm and greenhouses combine on Anderlecht market roof


The latest sustainable development at the Anderlecht food market in Brussels is expected to deliver 100 tonnes of fish and fresh produce a year

A pilot project for Europe

The new urban farm planned for the rooftop of the Foodmet food market on the site of Anderlecht’s slaughterhouse will employ the latest technology of aquaponic greenhouse farming, the site’s operators have announced.

Foodmet was inaugurated in May, as an upscale addition to the traditional outdoor market under the great iron hall of the slaughterhouses. Foodmet (“met” is the Brussels dialect pronunciation of the word markt or market) is a new construction, and the rooftop was reserved for a restaurant and an urban farming project.

Abattoir, the company that administers the whole site, has now reached an agreement with Building Integrated Greenhouse (BIG), a Belgian co-operative with links to aquaponics farms in Germany and food innovation experts in Switzerland.

Aquaponics is the integrated combination of fish farming and the growing of plants using baths of nutrients. The system planned for Foodmet promises 30 tonnes of fish and 70 tonnes of fresh produce a year – mini tubers, micro-greens and juvenile plants – with heat recovery, rainwater harvest and, crucially, production without the use of pesticides and antibiotics.

“This is a pilot project for Europe,” explains Paul Thielemans of Abattoir. “Aquaculture already exists, but not combined with hydroculture and not on a rooftop.” 

The rooftop provides 1,800 square metres of greenhouse space and the same area of gardens. The space will be shared by the fish tanks and the nutrient baths. “The water in which the fish are swimming will also be partially used in the hydroculture system, because it contains quantities of fertilising materials that are perfect for growing micro-greens,” explains Thielemans.

The grand plan is that the produce will be used in the restaurant, as well as being sold in the market downstairs. “We still need to find someone to run the restaurant, but it’s understood that the person doing so will use the products produced on the site,” Thielemans says. “This will be fresh fish, produced in the centre of Brussels just metres from the restaurant kitchen.”

BIG will begin in February with the development of 1,500 square metres of exterior space, with the greenhouses arriving next summer. The first produce should be available in the autumn, with fish ready to be harvested by early 2017.

Photo courtesy Abattoir SA