If you are not familiar with the term ‘aquaponics’, you are not alone. As words go, it is a relatively new one. It was coined to describe a new kind of sustainable, organic food production. Aquaponics is what linguists refer to as a portmanteau – a word formed by combining parts of two (or more) words, along with their meanings.
The combination of these two systems creates a symbiotic environment that is relatively stable and self-sustaining. As a result it is cost-effective, organic and easy on the environment. The problems inherent in both aquaculture and hydroponics are solved when they are combined.
How Aquaponics Works
Fish produce waste, like any living creature. When they are raised in a closed environment, such as a tank, they can literally kill themselves from all the effluent they produce through urine, feces and also through their gills.
These effluents raise the toxicity of the water for the fish, and soon the environment would become inhabitable. Anyone who has owned goldfish knows you have to clean out the fish bowl once in a while.
Enter hydroponics. Plants need food. As it turns out, the food they need is very similar to the effluent of the fish. In an aquaponics system, the harmful byproducts produced by the fish are filtered out of the water by the plants. This has the dual benefit of feeding the plants and cleaning the water for the fish.
Benefits of Aquaponics
In a well-designed aquaponics system, little to no water needs to be removed or added. The only exceptions to this are that water may need to be drained after a heavy rainfall, and some water may need to be added during droughts.
An aquaponics system can be a small indoor or outdoor unit that a hobbyist could create at home. It can also be a large-scale commercial system that churns out tons of food a year. Regardless of the size, the systems are all based on the same basic technology.
Aquaponics systems allow for the raising of both fish and vegetable crops. In an efficient system they can both be raised at a much higher rate of production than with traditional methods. What’s more, they can be grown in a fraction of the space. An aquaponics system uses only about 2% of the water that a conventional irrigation system would use for the same amount of vegetable production.
Because of the efficiency of such a system, both fish and vegetable crops can be grown in areas where there is little water and no fertile soil, and they can be raised in smaller facilities that are closer to market.
The world of aquaponics is still in its infancy. Advances are being made in the science and technology behind it all the time. It is an exciting world, and may open the doors to many possibilities for farming throughout the world.