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Food of the Future: Aquaponics….

Have anyone heard of aquaponics??? 

Aquaponics is gaining attention around the country as the future of farming. What does aquaponics stands for?? Combine fish raising (aqua-culture) and water gardening (hydro-ponics), you will get “AquaPonics”. It is a self sustaining cycle where Fish supply nutrients to the plants and the plants clean the fish water.

Lets look how much water it saves. Comparing to soil agriculture, plants can only take up water through the tips of their roots, so you need to soak the top layer of soil in order for the water to get down to where the plant can actually use it. So, that top layer of topsoil, all that water just evaporates. They don’t have to use as much water, they don’t need as much land, and they can still produce as much food. The water requirement is almost 90% less than that required in conventional farming.

What makes aquaponics so valuable and so workable at the same time.? One species’ trash is another species’ treasure. Fish is the key factor, zero chemicals and very little water is the added advantages..The process is organic since the waste from the fish-growing water turns into a fertilizer for the vegetable plants even as the water gets purified after running through the vegetable field. Vegetables can be harvested throughout the period of fish farming cycle. With an ever growing global population, there is an increasing demand for organic and good quality produce not only from general consumers but also restaurants and hotels that often require unusual, out-of-season and non-native ingredients. I must say its a revolutionary concept that thrives on a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. The benefits of aquaponics are:

  • the efficient use of water,
  • limited waste,
  • organic-like management,
  • colocation for producing two agricultural products (i.e., edible fish and plants),
  • increased density of crop production,
  • it addresses a growing interest in locally grown food.

Despite its appeal, aquaponics is almost a fantasy. You need to have some homework before you start. It’s capital-intensive and risky. Soil is cheap and sun is free, but production of protein and greens is not at the same pace or scale.  It’s highly technical. The pH levels of fish waste and plant nutrients must match. The levels of nitrogen and ammonium in the system must be diligently balanced. Those challenges if fulfilled,  you’ve got the match made in Heaven.

Aquaponics save us from nature’s biggest challenge : Seasonality. It is independent on weather or growing seasons but depends only on on controlling variables such as temperature and water quality, it can avoid agricultural hazards such as tornadoes, storms, flooding and droughts. It looks the same in winter as it does in summer. Also crops grow more quickly, requiring only 3 to 5 percent of the water needed in a traditional farming system.  Aquaponics could provide consistent products regularly and year-round.

While the setup cost of aquaponic farm might be higher than conventional farms, but the operational cost is much less. The yield from aquaponics is two times higher than that of conventional farming, also one restriction being that fruits and vegetables which grow underground cannot be grown using aquaponics. Poor soil quality( due to overdose of chemical fertilisers) and climatic changes such as droughts, hurricanes wont get affected as aquaponics is a soilless growing system. When designed effectively, the success would encourage more people to take up the organic process so that safe fish and vegetables would be available to people.

I think this is the future of farming as it can be done anywhere. You can do them indoors, outdoors, in warehouses, on rooftops, empty alleyways, empty parking lots. So all the space that’s being underutilized in urban areas could be transformed easily into an aquaponics system. And then you’re providing really clean, healthy produce for the local community and mostly for yourself..