If you haven’t read it yet, you can find more information about the history of aquaponics here.
Aquaponics is a highly sustainable method of Agriculture. There is some input and maintenance with Aquaponics system such as cleaning filters and feeding the fish. The primary benefits to Aquaponics are:
- Environmentally responsible with low water usage and low power usage.
- The primary inputs to the system are Fish food and water.
- Little to no Chemical usage. Aquaponics requires no synthetic fertilizers and few pesticides.
- Many of the plants that thrive in Aquaponic growing are very easy to grow.
- 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 be harvested as an additional food or revenue source
Aquaponics has become increasingly popular as a growing system in the past 10 years.
Much of this growth has been due to how sustainable and environmentally friendly Aquaponics is. Food production takes center stage when discussing ways to become not only more environmentally responsible but also when promoting healthy eating and supporting local members of our community. More people are turning to aquaponics to teach our future generations about sustainability, build healthy local businesses and take control of their food source every day.
At the forefront of aquaponics benefits is its ability to grow several types of food while consuming very few resources in the process. Power is needed to operate a system but there are few pieces of equipment that require power. This leads to a low net power usage. Even less water is used as most aquaponics systems are recirculating, meaning water is circulated through the system rather than disposed of after use. The primary water loss in Aquaponics comes from evaporation and plant transpiration, accounting for very little loss.
Equally important is that in many systems the need for pesticides and other chemicals is low, and is sometimes not 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 practice most widely used. The process of bacteria converting fish waste to plant food, or nutrients, eliminates 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 in the system 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 the greenhouse can create problems. This includes power outages and extreme temperatures, but aside from these Aquaponics systems are 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. Once the system is running, the primary task day to day is feeding the fish and checking for signs that the balance of the system is changing. Monitoring water chemistry, temperature, and nutrient levels and moving to correct them as needed will keep an Aquaponics system thriving.
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 educator, an Aquaponics system is a fantastic way to promote STEM subjects in your classroom. Aquaponics as a discipline touches on all aspects common to STEM programs in a unique way as an agriculture product including Chemistry, Mathematics, Engineering, Biology and many others.
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 and are designed to meet the Next Generation Science Standards promoted by the National Science Teachers Association(NSTA).
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