Aquaponics: The Cost-Effective, Cyclical Way to Raise Fish and Grow Plants at the Same Time!
By the middle of the century, there will be nearly 10 billion people competing for the Earth’s natural resources, which are vanishing at an astonishing rate. Consider that eight of the world’s 37 largest aquifers – which provide the fresh water necessary for life to exist – are overstressed, while an additional five are extremely stressed. And they can’t be replenished; that water is gone.
Luckily, compared to our ancestors, we are capable of great efficiency when it comes to meeting certain basic needs. In addition to cutting-edge irrigation technologies that reduce water waste, we have devised countless ways to lower water dependency and the amount of land required to provide food. Growing crops hydroponically, for instance, requires no soil and minimal water, while aquaculture allows us to grow a valuable source of animal protein quickly in a relatively small space without plundering the oceans.
Aquaponics, on the other hand, is probably the most efficient method of growing food today. By combining aquaculture and hydroponics with a closed-loop system that results in zero waste, recycles water almost infinitely, and removes the use of fertilisers or chemicals, this ingenious methodology produces roughly 500g of fish for every 40 Litres of water.
While aquaponics systems are often used in commercial settings, smaller-scale systems are great for people who want a sustainable way to grow their own food at home year-round.
It Produces Zero Waste
When growing fish in a controlled environment, their waste has to be removed or the buildup of ammonia could poison them. Instead of pouring that waste back into the environment, it is fed through a filtration system to remove solids, and then through soilless beds of an aquaponics system where it delivers nutrients to plants’ roots. By the time the water cycles back to the recirculating aquaculture system where the fish live, it’s clean and ready to be used again.
It Uses Trace Amounts of Water
Once the original water has been added to the tanks (most experts recommend first-timers start with a smaller unit 40L tank set up or venture to a bigger set up something like 208 to 851 Litre bin for the fish), this zero-waste ecosystem only loses small amounts of water through transpiration and evaporation. Thereafter, a slight top-off approximately once a week or so should keep water levels in check. Compare this to a plot of land that needs regular irrigation, or an aquaculture system that has to be replenished on a continual basis to ensure fish don’t perish from their own waste.
It Is Low-Maintenance
Once it’s set up, most people only spend five to 10 minutes a day tending to their aquaculture system. Once a week, make sure to check pH and ammonia levels and clean some of the components. Otherwise you can forget weeding, straining your back, or skinning your knees, and donate the tools you’ve collected for tilling soil. Aquaponics is incredibly self-sustaining if set up correctly.
It Requires No Chemicals
Most industrial food systems require huge inputs of fertiliser and pesticides to grow, which can harm the environment. The Union for Concerned Scientists published a report about conventional farming in which they expressed grave concern about our overuse of chemicals to grow food. They describe how chemical fertiliser runoff adds to global warming emissions and creates “oxygen-deprived ‘dead zones’ at the mouths of major waterways,” among other things.
Perhaps the best part of aquaponics is its versatility. Just about anyone with space can grow fruit, fish, herbs, and vegetables at home. Or, if you are short on time and nervous about creating the required balance to ensure the fish don’t grow so fast that the system can’t sustain itself, you can purchase automated systems like the Grove.
It Reduces the Occurrence of Pests
Closely linked to the absence of chemicals is the absence of pests. Since aquaponics doesn’t require soil, it reduces the presence of the kinds of critters that can compromise your hard-earned crops. Root rot is less common as well, provided the water drains properly.