Systems

What is Aquaponics?

aquaponics garden

Hello, there curious reader! Are you digging around for some gardening tips? Or are you
simply compiling your know-how on composting? Well, how about filling up on
Aquaponics for your green thumb?
Yes, you read that right. Aquaponics, the alternative way of farming for hobbyists and
commercially minded people.

Defining Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a cool chemistry experiment gone right.
Yes, that pretty much sums it up… According to the USDA National Agriculture Library, aquaponics simply put is a combination of fish and plant production using aquaculture and hydroponic systems.
The fish produce nutrient-rich effluents e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus compounds broken down by bacteria that the plants will utilize while the plants filter the water for the fish. Due to its dualistic nature, it would best to unpack what is meant by ‘aquaculture’ as well as ‘hydroponic’ systems.
Firstly, aquaculture is a farming method that developed as demand for seafood
increased. It typically involves the production of food and other commercial products, restoration of habitats, and the replenishing of wild stocks.
It can further be implemented to rebuild populations of threatened and endangered species. There are two types of aquaculture i.e. marine and freshwater. Secondly, a hydroponic system is a controlled environment where the soil medium is removed, and instead, the plant roots are placed in nutrient-rich water and the roots are anchored by a medium of the gardener/farmer’s choice.
The most famous method of doing this is ‘Vertical Farming’. Combining both aquaculture and hydroponics, aquaponic farming is born.

Benefits of Aquaponics

Aquaponics is the best of both worlds, from its name to the most desirable aspects of either aquaculture or hydroponics used to their most efficient level as one. Most notably these are the following benefits:
➢ Reduced land requirements making it accessible to city dwellers and rural
farmers alike,
➢ Reduced water consumption creating the opportunity to grow multiple crops simultaneously,
➢ Accelerated plant growth rates as witnessed from Butter lettuce varieties
growing in 30 days as compared to the typical 60 day period under conventional methods
➢ Year-round production in a controlled environment.
How does it fare against alternatives forms of gardening?
This is a good way to start for the individual who wants a lifestyle change at a slower pace, with the potential of a modest income from their activities.
Take for example the flood and drain growing method which irrigates plants by filling the hydroponic unit with nutrient-rich water followed by a period that draws air into the root zone.
The period emersion on water, followed by air exposure introduces oxygen to the roots producing an environment conducive for healthy roots.
Or how about the deep water culture growing method which is also simple and reliable that uses a floating platform with holes to support the plants and allows the roots to be suspended in the water. The suspended platform is easy to use and simple to clean. Other methods include the Nutrient Film Technique, Drip Irrigation and not forgetting the classic Vertical Farm.

Getting started:

Aquaponics can be done on a wide range of scales, from a benchtop aquarium to a multi-acre commercial facility capable of producing substantial amounts of fish and plants per year.
That being said, there are several basic components for an aquaponic system to run efficiently. All systems must have a place for solids removal, biological filtration, water flow, and culture for the animals to live.

Recirculating Aquatic systems (RAS) are the self-contained growing environments for producing aquatic organisms that will provide the nutrients for plants.
To have a RAS you will need:
1. Culture tanks are where the fish live during their growth. As the fish grow, their requirements for space, food, water quality, lighting, flow, and other factors will change.
2. Aeration is the process of water agitation, creating a large surface area for contact between air and water thus enhancing gas exchange as it occurs.
3. Waste management is important for maintaining high water quality for the fish to live and grow. Many techniques can be used such as the dual drain method, bottom drain, side drain, and solids lifting outflow.
4. Biological filtration will take advantage of the bacterial process to convert toxic by-products into non-toxic forms that can be used by plants.
5. Other considerations are sump tanks, pumps, plumbing, water temperature
control, water sterilization, environmental systems monitors, and controls.

Is Aquaponics popular?

It’s not long since the 21st century has begun, after all, it is still at its prime.
Also fascinating to note that hydroponic farming is an invention of the 21st century. 20 years in and the industry has gained ground to the point that Ocado, a leading British online supermarket, recently announced its partnership with Priva and 80-Acres, both leading participants in the vertical farm industry.

How can Aquaponics benefit society?

The most positive effect that Aquaponics has on the environment is the eliminated need for pesticides and herbicides. This is because the soilless process minimizes the risk of invasion by bugs and weeds into the growth environment, ensuring a much more clean and simple process.
Traditional agriculture makes use of intense applications of herbicides and pesticides to shield crops from natural threats, though these chemicals have become under increasing scrutiny for the adverse effects they pose to humans and surrounding ecosystems.
The faster we can cut down on the number of pesticides contaminating our food and environment, the better off our health and world will be.

Is Aquaponics worth the time, money, and effort?

Aquaponic systems present a unique opportunity for hobbyists and large-scale farmers. The year-round production of plants and fish can be a major source of income as aquaponic farmers can take advantage of higher seasonal prices.
As per other agricultural operations, profitability in the aquaponics business model is related with scale and efficiency of production.
Now, that you know exactly what Aquaponics is and its benefits, it’s time to embark on the Aquaponics journey…

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