What is Aquaponics? Positives and solutions to make it better (yes there are solutions needed!)
Aquaponics is the combination of:
- Aquaculture: Growing fish or other aquatic animals
- Hydroponics: Growing plants in water and not using soil
An aquaponics system is meant for growing food in a closed-loop system. This means that both greens as well as aquatic life can be raised with zero waist. How does it work?
- The aquaculture is raised in a tank and creates waste, which becomes toxic for the aquatic animals in high dosage.
- Water from this tank is pumped to the hydroponics, which are situated higher than the aquaculture.
- The plants clean the water by filtering the animal waste out, which is nutrition for the plants.
- The clean water seeps back to the aquaculture, through the stones or other materials which support the plants. This is also why no soil is being used: to keep the water clean.
Benefits then Negatives and possible solutions to the negatives.
- A well set up aquaponics system produces no waist.
- There are multiple income streams from the aquatic life as well as the vegetables grown.
- The crops grow faster because of the many nutrients they get.
- When the aquaculture and hydroponics are combined well; it can be very space efficient.
- A well set up aquaponics system uses only 10% of the water that is needed to grow crops in soil.
- After the initial build, aquaponics systems are low maintenance.
- The previous benefits make aquaponics systems cheap to run.
- Aquaponics doesn’t have any influence on the surrounding eco-system.
- The grow beds can be built at a comfortable working height which allows disabled or wheelchair bound people the same opportunities to grow their own healthy vegetables. (aquaponicstips.com/benefits-of-aquaponics/)
- Aquaponics is not Zero input. For example:
–There is need for electricity for the pump
Solution: A wind turbine or a solar panel can be used to provide for the electricity.
– There is need for food for the aquatic animals
Solution: Insects like black soldier flies or worms can be grown sustainably with compost. Compost can be made from trash.
– There is need to add water because of evaporation
Solution: The aquaponics system could be sealed off completely, so that any evaporated water would condensate and drip back into one of the two components. This would create aerial problems though, as both the aquatic animals as well as the crops need air to live. To fight this; the system could have special air holes and built-in fans.
The down-side to this solution is that it makes the aquaponics system more expensive and complicated. In the end, the water that needs to be added is far less than the water that is being consumed by traditional crop growing methods, and is cheaper to add than to extend the system.
Who’s doing it and what makes them special.
Small scale farming
In Colombia, aquaponics has been implemented to small scale farming. Because of the efficiency and low maintanance costs, this is a great way for local farmers to make better profits for their families, while using an eco-friendly way to do so. Aquaponics shows that environmentally friendly systems don’t have to be expensive or limited to Western countries like the US or Europe.
At the same time new ideas are being developed, like vertical aquaponics, in which you can grow at least two times as much crops in the same amount of square footage.
While growing fish and crops are the most logical way to make money from aquaponics, some farmers have taken it to the tourism level. For instance Rainbow Aquaponics in Bali, a large scale aquaponics fish and vegetable producer. Rainbow Aquaponics has a restaurant that serves their own vegetables and fish, and even give tours to educate people about aquaponics. (rainbowaquaponicsbali.com)
Others have taken it to a whole other level. Gadadessa in Sri Lanka only has a little -very pretty though indeed- aquaponics system, which is only a sightseeing asset on their nature resort.
Because of its space efficiency aquaponics fits well into urban life. In Europe Micro Farm is taking aquaponics to a modern urbanisation level. They do aquaponics in compact shippingcontainers which can also be moved around. Check this out:
Can this change the planet? Why?
Of course aquaponics is not THE solution to revert all the world’s problems, but it can definitely make a huge difference. As there are more than 7 billion people in the world, and all of those need to eat, the production of food is the biggest and most important industry. It takes up the most space and it has the biggest impact on Mother Earth. The biggest problem is that pesticides and fertilizers pollute soil and water, and aquaculture’s waste is mostly dumped in oceans and rivers. If we can grow crops and raise fish or other aquatic life in a sustainable way, imagine how much difference that would make in keeping our environment healthy and clean.