Aquaponics and Aquaculture are among the most misunderstood and poorly utilized food production techniques. These two forms of agriculture not only have the potential to feed the world, but leave a remarkably small ecological footprint as well. When you consider the millions of acres devoted to growing genetically-altered grain and meat, as well as and the energy- and chemically-intensive costs of current production mechanisms, the need for alternative approaches is apparent.
By the year 2050 the world population is projected to reach 9.3 billion (Noor et. al.). Aquaculture and aquaponics offer independence and self-sustainability when it comes to food production. In jthe space of just a few square yards, families can produce almost all of their yearly food needs.
To demonstrate the importance of aquaculture and aquaponics, it is first important to introduce another approach to food production (hydroponics) and to distinguish between the three.
- Hydroponics produces plants in water as opposed to soil. It sometimes utilizes a non-soil substrate, but the plants obtain all of their nutrients from the water.
- Aquaculture focuses on the production of fish and other aquatic animals like freshwater shrimp.
- Aquaponics, in contrast, combines the production of aquatic organisms with the production of food plants.
Aquaponics offer the best of both worlds when it comes to backyard food production. Hydroponics, for example, requires the introduction of chemical nutrients in order to function. Aquaculture, in turn, limits you to the production of aquatic organisms alone and leaves you with the problem of how to dispose of the wastes produced by those organisms. Aquaponic systems eliminate the two problems inherent in hydroponics and aquaculture. No outside chemicals are required and the plants thrive on the waste produced from the aquatic organisms.
The term “aquaponics” is actually derived from a combination of the words “hydroponics” and “aquaculture”. These systems vary in terms of their complexity. In the backyard environment, they are largely immune to environmental regulation because they observe a “nothing in nothing out” philosophy. The fish are fed, of course, but there is no large-scale use of chemicals or a large-scale production of waste.
- Passive Production
Passive aquaponic and aquacultural systems are designed to use no outside energy such as that required by pumps. The nutrients that are produced by these systems are rerouted through the system through natural flow patterns. A passive system, for example, might contain floating beds of vegetation right over the top of the fish tank. The movement of the fish alone stirs up the water enough that the nutrients are uniformly distributed to the plant beds.
- Pumped Production
Pumped systems can be quite simplistic or rather elaborate. Tanks are often separated with the nutrient-laden water pumped into the plants where the nutrients are removed and converted into food for your family. The clean water is then pumped from the plants and back to the aquatic organisms.
Aquaculture and aquaponics have the obvious advantage of being the ultimate in terms of “locally produced”. These systems provide food for the families that are operating them. Noor et. all.write that these systems could completely eliminate the need for fertilizers and pesticides and not only produce “sustainability in food security” they could produce a reduction in “energy consumption in agriculture production, shipping of food, and greenhouse gas emissions etc.”
The advantages of aquaculture and aquaponics is that waste is not discharged into the environment. Furthermore, because they are smaller scale, they are easier to manage in terms of disease control. If one of your primary purposes in life is to lessen your environmental footprint, these systems are definitely the way to go.
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Noor, Dr. Munawar Ahmad, et al. “AQUAPONICS A GREEN METHOD TO PRODUCE QUALITY FOOD.” Technology Times, 3 July 2016. General OneFile, ezproxy.knoxlib.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.dop=ITOF&sw=w&u=tel_p_knoxcpl&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA460054412&it=r&asid=7deeba9da9e30c407f924eb1cb36abc1. Accessed 17 Dec. 2016.