In it's simplest form, aquaponics can be described as the integration of two farming methods:
Aquaculture - Farming aquatic species in a controlled environment. AND
Hydroponics - The growing of plants in soil-less media
How does it work? Aquaponics recirculates water from a fish tank through a vegetable grow bed. Nutrients from the fish waste feed the plants, and the plants filter the water to keep the fish healthy.
- Fish are raised in a tank
- Water from the fish tank is pumped to the plants
- Naturally occuring bacteria convert ammonia and nitrite to nitrate
- Plants absorb the nutrient rich water
- Filtered water is returned to the fish tank, clean
What are the benefits of aquaponics?
- Significantly reduces water use on average up to 90% over traditional farming
- Relatively low energy consumption
- Faster growth rates and yields
- Eliminates the need for weeding and tilling of soil
- No soil borne diseases
- Plants are naturally fertilized
- No pesticides or chemicals
- The fish are a healthy source of protein
- No waste water run off in recirculating systems
- Systems can be established locally minimizing "food miles"
Aquaponics offers improvements over traditional soil based farming which often requires extensive water, pesticides, fertilizer, tilling, weeding and eventually results in fallow soils and creates harmful byproducts from chemicals and wastewater. It also overcomes the issues of hard clay, sand or contaminated soils. In addition, vegetables, herbs and fruits that are mass produced in this way come from seeds and plants engineered for rough handling, disease resistance and long shelf life.
Aquaponic systems can be built both inside and outside depending on climate conditions. Indoor systems are typically built inside of a greenhouse, hoop house, or other controlled environment structures. This allows control over various pests, intensive or destructive weather conditions and permits food to be grown year round in areas which otherwise might not be able to produce any food crops. Smaller systems can also easily be built and operated in people's homes, providing a convenient food source for your family.
Locally produced food means significantly less energy used when compared to the processes of using heavy farm equipment dependent upon oil and gas as well as the physical labor necessary to till, plant, weed, harvest, process, package, transport, and store food. Research shows that the average meal travels over 1,500 miles to reach your plate. Just consider all the energy consumption necessary for that salad or tilapia dinner. For example, over 289 million lbs of tilapia was imported in 2009 from China, Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Honduras for a total market value of $509,795,000.* Why are we importing fish from the other side of the planet when we can raise them right here in our own backyard, providing food and jobs for the community?
What types of plants can be grown in aquaponics? Below is a list of some common varieties of plants but not necessarily all the plants
Most varieties of lettuce
Most varieties of herbs
What fish can be grown in aquaponics? Aquaponics systems, depending upon size, can raise and harvest anywhere from one to potentially tens of thousands of pounds annually. Common fish species that can be grown include but are not limited to
Goldfish and some varieties of aquarium fish