Aquaponics And Its Economic And Environmental Benefits
Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture (fish farming). This is a symbiotic relationship, where fish wastes become the food source for plants, and the plants in turn provide a natural filter for the fish. This managed ecosystem is becoming increasingly popular as food sources and groundwater have become increasingly tainted.
Aquaponics is an ideal answer to recycle nutrient rich “fishy” water and the hydroponic enthusiasts’ need for nutrient rich solution. The best part in this environmental and friendly system is that everything is organic with no chemicals added.
Still in its infancy, aquaponics is following a steady upward growth curve. The obvious hydroponic benefits include: elimination of fertilizer costs and associated labor. The dramatic reduction of the filtration of fish waste is the main benefit afforded in aquaculture.
A homebased aquarium which has either food fish or ornamental fish, is simple to integrate with not so large hydroponic system to cultivate garden-fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers. A number of backyard farmers are in the process of developing aquaponics frameworks that supply enough fish and produce for their family.
Aquaponics is about to become an important new part of urban food production in major world cities- especially on roofs, on walls and within buildings. It is becoming a new form of urban organic farming, with a touch of magic in the provision of more health promoting omega-3 oil, an essential oil that most human diets sorely need.
In modern aquaponics fish, molluscs and crustaceans are fed recycled food nutrients. Micro-organisms then covert fish wastes to plant food. Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, herbs, vegetables and fruit become superior fresh foods with little or no transport or energy costs. The water cleaned by the plants is used again in the tanks, and costs are reduced considerably. Fresh food transport costs are virtually eliminated. It is ingenious human mimicry of Mother Nature.
Aquaponics is a word adopted in the United States, about 35 years ago to describe the combination of farming aquatic animals and animals (fish, crustaceans and molluscs) with the growing of vegetables and fruits in organic-hydroponic. In Australia for example, it is about to become a modern, organic form of sensible urban agriculture using LED-lit technology driven by solar power, and incorporating the recycling of clean urban organic matter with the provision of omega-3 oils in fresh foods.
The technology has its roots in China and Central America more than 1000 years ago. Chinese rice growers grew fish in their flooded paddies. Until Spanish conquistadores ruined their simple systems, the Aztecs and Incas had ‘chinampas’ where channelled city sewage pondings grew fish in water, fruit and vegetables on rafts.
It is now a most sensible food system integrating that has been largely overlooked in human kind’s blind adoption of unsustainable, industrial exploitation of soil and water. The major inputs in aquaponics are in fish feed and expert labour to tend and harvest the double-cropping system. At its best, the aquaponics fish are herbivores and omnivores that can use locally produced feed containing omega-3 oils.
Fresh produce from aquaponics is healthier local food for humans. It has less harmful fats, sugars and carbohydrates and more omega-3 oils, for sounder human diets. Aquaponics with added technology is also promising cheaper fresh food in “protected agriculture” systems next to home kitchens, restaurants and food services facilities.
Some companies’ plan is to develop a modular system for aquaponic, enclosed in a protected, climate controlled environment to minimize pests and diseases. New technologies in water, food nutrient recycling and power supply will minimize developments costs and minimize speed to local markets only very short distances away. This new technology is aimed at world markets for efficient urban agriculture that costs less for city supplies of healthy, fresh food.
Modules of aquaponics are being merged into more efficient local food production units, with the plan to put these systems together in a new way, offering them within a portable, low-cost building that can be re-packaged and transported to another site, if necessary. Such buildings and equipment will be offered as urban and rural franchises or for sale as second step aid packages when disasters adversely affect local food supplies.
However, the biggest short-term opportunity for aquaponics lies in the city’s retrofit rooftop gardeners and green roofs and green walls. Aquaponics is an environmental friendly practice and should be embraced because of the above mentioned benefits.
Aquaponics is a sustainable and integrated system that combines aquaculture (the cultivation of aquatic animals like fish) and hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water) to create a mutually beneficial ecosystem. In an aquaponics system, the waste produced by fish or other aquatic animals is used as a nutrient source for plants, and the plants, in turn, help purify the water for the aquatic animals. It’s a closed-loop system that mimics natural ecosystems and can be used for growing a wide range of crops, including vegetables, herbs, and even some fruits.
Here’s how aquaponics generally works:
- Fish Tank: The heart of the aquaponics system is the fish tank, where aquatic animals such as fish (common choices include tilapia, trout, or catfish) are raised. These fish produce ammonia-rich waste.
- Grow Beds: Connected to the fish tank are grow beds filled with a growing medium (like gravel or expanded clay pellets) and planted with various crops. The grow beds are where plants are cultivated. The water from the fish tank is continuously pumped into the grow beds.
- Beneficial Bacteria: In the grow beds, beneficial bacteria (nitrifying bacteria) convert the ammonia from the fish waste into nitrates and nitrites. These converted forms of nitrogen serve as essential nutrients for the plants.
- Plant Uptake: As the water flows through the grow beds, the plants’ roots take up the nutrients, effectively filtering and cleaning the water. This filtered and nutrient-rich water is then returned to the fish tank, creating a closed-loop system.
- Oxygenation: Adequate aeration is crucial for both the fish and the plant roots. Typically, oxygen is supplied through air stones or diffusers placed in the fish tank and sometimes in the grow beds as well.
The benefits of aquaponics include:
- Efficient Use of Resources: Aquaponics uses significantly less water compared to traditional soil-based agriculture, as water is continuously recycled within the system.
- Reduced Environmental Impact: It minimizes the discharge of pollutants and nutrient-rich runoff into natural water bodies.
- Increased Crop Production: Aquaponics can produce both fish and plants, providing a diverse yield of fresh and organic food in a relatively small space.
- Year-Round Cultivation: Controlled environments, such as greenhouses, can extend the growing season and allow for year-round cultivation.
- Sustainable and Organic: Aquaponics systems can be operated with minimal or no chemical fertilizers and pesticides, making them a sustainable and organic farming method.
Aquaponics is a versatile and sustainable agricultural practice that is gaining popularity worldwide as a means to produce food in an environmentally friendly way. It can be adapted to various scales, from small home systems to large commercial operations, making it accessible to a wide range of growers.
Top 5 Pros and Cons of Aquaponics
Aquaponics is a hydroponics system that utilizes aquaculture to grow plants. Aquaculture, also known as fish farming, allows farmers to breed and harvest both fresh and saltwater species with controlled conditions. In aquaponic systems, fish waste is converted into nutrients for vegetables using bacteria. The entire process is environmentally friendly, saves water and creates no waste. In this post we’ll discuss the top pros and cons of aquaponics so that you can determine if this type of farming may be right for you.
Pros of Aquaponics
There are several pros and cons of aquaponics. The environmental and economic benefits of these systems, such as water efficiency, are important factors for sustainable farming.
A main benefit of aquaponics is how water-efficient the system can be to operate, using up to 10 times less water than traditional agriculture. The recirculation system minimizes water waste and allows for the reuse of other elements such as fish feed.
2. Climate Adaptive
While many new technologies are touted as sustainable but are not really climate-resilient. With a growing global population and increased food insecurity, climate-adaptive farming methods are more important than ever. Aquaponics is a truly climate-adaptive growing method, allowing producers to make adjustments to save energy. Since aquaponics is a closed system with controlled conditions, it is easy to utilize techniques that can adapt to climate change, such as variances in temperature.
3. Economically Viable
The economic incentivization of sustainable agriculture is key to its longevity as an adopted growing method, not just a fad. Aquaponics is not only productive, its profitable. Aquaponics is a rapidly growing industry and can be installed in small and large-scale facilities. While the initial cost of set-up can be a bit steep, it is a worthwhile investment for growers who can now sell two different crops with the same amount of inputs.
4. Chemical Free
Like other hydroponics systems, aquaponics does not require the use of pesticides. In fact, using any type of chemical can make the fish sick, which is why growers must be so careful when it comes to water quality! Not using chemicals not only keeps input costs low but has numerous environmental and human health benefits.
5. Environmental Benefits
The environmental benefits of aquaponics are the most attractive features of this growing system. Aquaponics requires very little water and very little power overall. Because it is a closed system, there is no waste and no water pollution. Crop production is also higher per square foot than traditional farming, which is crucial to growing more food for a larger population.
Cons of Aquaponics
While there are many benefits to aquaponics, there are some cons as well. Aquaponics systems can be expensive to set-up, and the infrastructure requirements may prohibit some mid-size producers from investing in commercial systems.
1. Limited Crops
Aquaponics is suitable for multiple species of fish and several types of vegetables, but the overall selection is limited. While the system is suitable for fresh and saltwater species, including tilapia, carp and bass, the range of vegetables is limited to water-heavy crops like cucumbers and green leafy vegetables like lettuce.
2. Electricity Consumption
Aquaponics may not require a huge amount of energy, but the energy required is significant. While it may be possible to utilize renewable energy for an aquaponics system, it should be noted that dependence on electricity may be cost-prohibitive for some growers.
3. Set-Up Cost
The initial cost of setting up an aquaponics system makes it a bit tricky for mid-sized growers who may be looking to install a system larger than a home setup but smaller than a commercial scale setup. Commercial operations can range from $25,000 to over $100,000, depending on the type of system installed.
4. Poor Resiliency
While aspects of an aquaponics system are extremely climate-adaptive, with low inputs and low water usage, other aspects make it a bit more tricky. The infrastructure and exact conditions that a healthy aquaponics system requires make it less resilient than soil-grown crops, which can often adapt to changing weather conditions and temperature changes. Aquaponics, on the other hand, may fail unexpectedly due to system issues or power outage, which would result in a complete crop loss.
5. Infrastructure Requirements
While aquaponics systems are flexible enough to be installed almost anywhere, including high-density urban areas, the infrastructure can be difficult to install. Tanks and pumps are necessary for biofiltration, while stocking units for fish and waste purification are also crucial. These factors may not be a big deal for some commercial growers, but for small producers looking for increased food security, the infrastructure requirements may be prohibitive.
Fish and Vegetables: Pros and Cons of Aquaponics
The pros and cons of aquaponics are numerous. Some benefits include low water usage and minimum inputs. In many ways, it is an innovative technology that is climate-adaptive and may contribute to greater food security in the face of climate change. On the other hand, there are definite disadvantages to this growing system, including cost, which may make it tricky to implement on a wide-scale. Regardless, aquaponics is a booming industry that will play a key role in producing food more sustainably in the future.
Prepare and write by:
Author: Mohammed A Bazzoun
If you have any more specific questions, feel free to ask in comments.
For More Article