Benefits of Aquaponics

Why Aquaponics?

If you haven’t read it yet, you can find more information about aquaponics here.

While touted as completely sustainable, that is not entirely true. There is still some input and maintenance with the system such as cleaning filters and feeding the fish. However, an aquaponics system is:

  • Environmentally responsible with its low water usage and low power usage
  • Low input with simply feeding the fish
  • Chemical free because there isn’t a need for synthetic fertilizers or pesticides
  • Easy to grow plants
  • Low susceptibility to pests and diseases
  • Timely crop turn around
  • Increased crop production per square foot versus traditional farming
  • Multiple crops and fish can be grown from the same system
  • Fish can also be harvested as a food source

aquaponics system with media bed and float rafts with leafy vegetables

A big reason for the rise of aquaponics as a growing system over the past 5-10 years is a growing effort in being responsible in how we use our resources. Food production takes center stage when discussing ways to become not only more environmentally responsible but also promoting healthy eating and supporting local members of our community. More and more people are turning to aquaponics to teach our future generations about sustainability, build healthy local businesses and take control of their food source.

At the forefront of aquaponics system benefits, is its ability to grow several types of food all while consuming very little resources in the process. Power is needed to operate a system but there are few pieces of equipment which leads to low power consumption. Even less water is used. Like ours, most aquaponics systems are recirculating, meaning water is circulated through the system and never disposed.

An equally important aspect of an aquaponics system, besides power and water, is that in most cases the need for pesticides and other chemicals is very low, if needed at all. Aquaponics systems were designed for use in a controlled environment, like a greenhouse or indoor warehouse, so exclusion is the pest management. The process of bacteria converting fish waste to plant food, or nutrients, alleviates the need for fertilizer. Even pH is adjusted on its own within the system through the process of bacteria converting the fish waste. You’re not trying to replicate nature as much as you are letting it flourish in aquaponic tanks. Nature does its work by creating an environment, within our structure, where fish and plants thrive. Our part is to introduce the participants and let them find their balance. A watchful eye is key because variables outside of the aquaponics system or greenhouse can create problems i.e., power outages, extreme temperatures etc, but the system itself is self-correcting.

Aquaponics systems are a simple way to grow food. Minimal maintenance is needed and the main efforts are in feeding the fish, seeding new crops and harvesting. Now it is not a set it and forget it situation. As mentioned before keeping eyes on the system several times each day is very important. Instead of looking for things to do, you are looking for things that could change the balance of the aquaponics system. Checking water temperature, water chemistry, nutrients levels and scouting for pests and diseases will keep the system from slowing down.

The simplicity doesn’t take away from actual vegetable or floriculture production volume. At a rate of 4-5 times faster, in terms of crop turns, when compared to traditional farming, aquaponics systems can hold their ground. Not only is the crop turn speedier but the density of planting is also increased.

One of the most interesting features of an aquaponics system is its conduciveness to polyculture. Fruiting and leafy vegetables can be grown side by side. Fish and plants are being harvested from one system. There are many options as for what can be grown using aquaponics growing systems. Not only are the plant options wide there are also a decent number of fish species that will grow in a system.

Aquaponics and STEM

If you are an instructor (or just an interested person), you can tout the benefits of STEM with your aquaponics system within your classroom lessons.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM’s focus is to improve competitiveness in Science and technology by exploring curriculum choices that take an integrated approach to subjects verses teaching them in isolation.

Over the course of designing, prototyping and maintaining our aquaponics system, Aqueduct, the correlation with STEM has become very apparent. Aquaponics is founded in many subjects including chemistry, mathematics, engineering, biology, agriculture, horticulture and many more. The aspect that is fascinating is while calculations can be made and experiments can be ran, it is a living moving breathing system.

The Aqueduct aquaponics system comes with a curriculum for high school or college courses. These lesson plans, labs, critical thinking questions and worksheets were created by Polly Juong, a Horticulture and Aquaponics consultant from the University of Arizona-CEAC.

If you have further questions, please email or call our aquaponics representative:
Scott Moore