Hydroponics and Aquaponics Vs The High Food Demand: The US Department of Agriculture predicts that in 2022 the cost of fresh fruit will rise between 8.5 and 9.5% compared to last year. The Economist has published that “food-price inflation is nearly three times higher than pre-pandemic forecasts”. The rising costs in groceries are hurting American families.
As the human population continues to grow, so does the demand for food. However, the amount of land that is currently used for agriculture is already too high. This damages ecosystems and makes the problem of climate change worse. One of the challenges that we face nowadays is implementing sustainable methods to expand agricultural production. A possible solution is the use of hydroponics and aquaponics to reduce costs and environmental impacts while increasing the amount of crops generated.
Hydroponics is a plant growing system that does not require soil. Instead, plants are placed in water that already contains all the necessary nutrients. This allows for high yields of produce. In the United States, hydroponics is the main technique used for growing basil, lettuce, and tomato. Because of the lack of soil, the plants are less prone to be attacked by pests and are not exposed to weeds. This also reduces the environmental impacts of agriculture, because it decreases the use of pesticides and insecticides.
In an aquaponic system, plants are grown in a closed environment with bacteria and fish. Bacteria convert the waste from the fish into nutrients for the plants. This also prevents the water from becoming toxic to the fish, and creates a healthy growth cycle for all the living beings involved. It requires very little maintenance, because it replicates a natural ecosystem, where everything is recycled. The nitrogen levels remain permanently balanced, which means that the water never needs to be replaced. The fish feed is not very costly, and after 6 months of running an aquaponic garden, there is a greater efficiency and crop yield as well.
Food insecurity, the lack of access to adequate food because of limited resources, is one of the nation’s leading health and nutrition issues. According to the USDA, in 2020, 330 million people in the United States were food insecure. That is 1 out of 8 Americans. Extreme poverty and hunger occur mostly in rural settings. Smallholder farmers and their families are the most affected by food scarcity problems. A large portion of food production is subsidized by taxes. Nationally, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent in growing, processing, and disposing of food that goes to waste. Half of the land in the country, 80% of fresh water, and 10% of the energy budget is spent on getting food to American homes. That is why we need agricultural practices and food systems that are more productive and less wasteful.
Since they can be kept indoors and isolated from climate conditions, hydroponics and aquaponics allow for food to be produced year-round. This increases the growing season and amount of produce that can be obtained. The plants in both systems have a higher access to oxygen, which makes them grow 30 to 50% faster than those in soil. This is because the additional oxygen makes them absorb nutrients better and allows the roots to grow faster. All of these factors combined translate in 30-40% more produce, compared to traditional methods.
Promoting hydroponics and aquaponics has great benefits. It can help reduce the costs of groceries for American families, and can also aid in guaranteeing food security for all. It is one of the pathways towards building a better economy and healthier lives for the American people.
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