With global environmental issues such as deforestation and global warming increasing day by day, have you ever wondered what would be left for future generations to dwell upon? With people being compelled in their households due to the pandemic, the demand for food is ever-rising.
We all are aware that if we continue to exhaust our resources without producing them at an equal or a faster rate, we will soon run into a worldwide crisis. Thus we must build sustainable farming methods which help us create the food for tomorrow.
This article will introduce you to the concept of Aquaponics and discuss whether it is a sustainable practice or just another hoax.
Aquaponics System in a Nutshell
An Aquaponics System is a growing system where there is no absolute soil, but there’s fish that has its waste turned into ammonia.
In simpler words, it is a system where plants and fish are grown together symbiotically. Through this method, we can generate both plants and proteins in the same ecosystem.
Aquaponics is favored because it uses 90% less water than conventional farming, does not need fertilizers for production, produces more food per square foot than any other gardening system on earth, promotes self-sufficiency, and is natural and organic.
The working of this system is simple, and water is pumped from a sump tank which is then transferred into a fish tank that is planted above the ground level.
The water makes its course from the fish tanks to the grow beds filled with gravel. This cycle continues aiding the formation of a symbiotic ecosystem, which helps both the plants and the fish.
How to Build an Aquaponics System?
When it comes to Aquaponics systems, both DIY and pre-built systems are available in the market. Like any other gardening system, you must check a few basic requirements before getting started.
These requirements are listed below:
- Rearing tank
- Hydroponics Subsystems
- Settling basin
- Sump Tank
- Live components such as fish, plants, and bacteria
Start by finding a location. It can be your backyard, garage, or even an outdoor location like your terrace if you want to expand in the future.
Then you can progress with choosing the best system as per your needs. Aquaponics systems are divided into three categories: the Raft system, Nutrient-filled technique, and Media-filled bed.
After this, just install the components, plant the living components, and you are good to go.
Aquaponics Vs. Hydroponics
People often confuse these terms, so you need to know how to distinguish between them. Both Aquaponics and Hydroponics are ways of growing plants sustainably.
In Aquaponics, the fish feces are used up by plants, whereas in Hydroponics, we add nutrient solutions to the water stream to nourish the plants.
Hydroponics is a cheaper option as compared to the former and is also easier to set up.
However, Aquaponics is better for large-scale gardening. Both of these processes are organic and do not need any kind of weed.
Are Aquaponics Systems Sustainable?
Aquaponics is profitable if done on a large scale. Since the cost of set up is high, it is not recommended for individual users if you see it from the cost perspective.
It is suited for city dwellers who want to start a business or eat organic food alongside inspiring future generations. However, many aspects have proved this system to be sustainable.
These aspects are:
Overcoming Soil Challenges
In various locations, the soil is not fertile or may add certain minerals required for the crop to grow.
This is tackled by practices such as tilling, composting, and usage of fertilizers. By using Aquaponics, the soil is wholly eliminated from the picture.
We are no stranger to the importance of water and how crucial it is to save it. With Aquaponics, water usage is 90% lower as compared to conventional irrigation practices
Natural and Constant Fertilizer
We know that we mine and manufacture pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in traditional agricultural practices, which causes pollution.
Aquaponics provides a sustainable model by mimicking a natural ecosystem. It also makes us feel good as the product is natural.
Flexibility in terms of Location
You can develop an Aquaponics garden even over a solid block of concrete. Aquaponics encourages crops to be grown in conditions where it’ll otherwise be impractical to do so.
The framework may be set up inside a greenhouse, factory, or outside.
Producing No Waste
The solids that fishes excrete are used as compost for fishes. Since the ecosystem is natural, any plant waste can be fed to fishes and bacteria, causing zero waste.
Saving Fuel and Workforce
The organic food at your local retailer may be grown in some other county and then shipped to you via airplanes or ships.
Doing your gardening will help you break the chain and become more self-reliant.
Many claims that aquaculture is expensive to set up and run. That can be relevant based on the scale and complexity of the system and the construction and amenities.
Individuals view the initial expenditure to be worthy in terms of nutrition, health, peace of mind, and food security.
In 1–2 years, home and hobby scale systems will probably pay for themselves through produce and fish. If the right products are grown, farm-scale systems can be profitable in a similar period of time.
Pro Tips to Help You Get Started
- Use circular-shaped tanks as they can be cleaned easily. When buying the fish tank, you should prefer fiberglass ones due to their rigidity.
- Consider photovoltaic power sources to save on electricity costs.
- Make sure that the water you are using meets the following day parameters – pH (6–7), dissolved oxygen (5 mg/liter), temperature (18–30 °C), total nitrogen, and water alkalinity. You can use water testing kits to ensure these benchmarks.
- For easier management, try not to clutter the tank. Stocking density should be kept around 20kg/1000 liters.
- Do not keep the food for animals inside the tank for too long as it may use up all of the dissolved oxygen. You should remove it after 30 minutes of feeding them.
- Leafy green plants, tomatoes, and cucumbers grow the best in Aquaponics. They can be an ideal choice if you are a beginner.
- You can begin harvesting as soon as the leaves get large enough to eat.
Since this is a relatively new practice, there are no set guidelines. Chances of mishaps happening are pretty low in such a concealed environment.
Unless there is some leak in the device or a water impurity issue, plant growth is not affected.
Since you rely on an artificial environment, you will have to keep an eye on the system as it matures. If there is any technical glitch in the device, it may severely impact fish as they need a constant oxygen supply.
Plants may take up a while to start degrading. Keep in mind to initially monitor the system and get a professional’s help if needed.
To sum up, Aquaponics is a sustainable way for a healthier future. However, it is not profitable on a small scale.
Factors like climate and costs involved also come into play. So before getting started, you should keep all these costs in mind and figure a plan with an expert on how to approach the situation.