The use of land for modern agriculture, forests, and other purposes also contributes to releasing 25 percent of greenhouse gases. To a considerable extent, food production is reliant on synthetic chemicals, the production of which may be both costly and polluting. Is it possible that Aquaponics might be a part of the solution for agriculture? What exactly is meant by the term “aquaponics,” and how does this method compare to hydroponics? What are the advantages of using an aquaponic system?
How can we define Aquaponics?
Aquaponics, as defined by a study developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization and SmartFish, is the process of growing plants and aquatic creatures together in an environment that is constantly being recycled.
The phrase “aquaponics” is a combination of the words “aquaculture,” which refers to the process of raising fish in an enclosed habitat, and “hydroponics,” which refers to the cultivation of plants without soil (generally, the plant development in soil-less conditions).
A wide range of sizes is available for aquaponic systems, from little indoor units to enormous commercial ones. Moreover, they may be freshwater systems and systems that contain salt water or shallow water.
As per the Aquaponics Gardening Community, which Thorarinsdottir quoted, Aquaponics is “the practice of growing fish and plants together in a designed, re – circulating ecosystem using natural bacterial phases to convert fish waste to plant nourishment.” In other words, Aquaponics is the farming of fish and plants together for an ecosystem that has been artificially constructed. There is no need to dispose of any water or filtration or add any chemical fertilisers while using this ecologically friendly and natural technique of growing food; it combines the most beneficial aspects of aquaculture and hydroponics.
Aquaculture + Hydroponics = Aquaponics System
Discovering Aquaponics Through Aquaculture
As per National Ocean Service, the ability to cultivate food in shallow coastal waters and the open ocean has become feasible due to technological advancements made possible by the rising demand for seafood. Aquaculture is a technique that may be used to generate food and other commercial items, restore habitat and replace wild stock, and rehabilitate populations of rare and vulnerable species.
Aquaculture may be broken down into two primary categories: marine and freshwater. In addition, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) defines aquaculture as the practice of raising fish and other aquatic animal and plant species in captivity for production. Many aquatic animals, including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatic plants and algae, have been successfully cultivated. Aquaculture production methods have been established in many parts of the world. As a result, they have been adapted to the varied environmental and climatic conditions in diverse parts of the world. Aquaculture may be broken down into four primary categories: open water systems (such as cages and long-lines), ponds culture, flow-through enclosures, and recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS).
Discovering Aquaponics Through Hydroponics
There are more methods of cultivating food and doing it directly in the soil. When looking at a transcript of a report published by the FAO, one can see that they refer to soil-less cultures to cultivate crops without the utilisation of soil. Several other inert growth mediums, usually referred to as substrates, are utilised in place of soil. These mediums give support to the plant and the ability to retain moisture. These media have irrigation systems built right into them, which allows for the delivery of a nutrient solution directly to the root zones of the plants.
This solution contains all of the essential elements necessary for the growth of plants. Plant cultivation without using soil is known as hydroponics, and it involves growing the plants either on a substrate or in an aqueous solution with their bare roots. Hydroponics is the most popular form of soil-less growth.
How does the technique of aquaponics work? Where Does The Concept Of Aquaponics Come From?
Fish consume the food and then excrete waste, transformed into nutrients that plants may absorb by bacteria beneficial to the ecosystem. Plants contribute to the process of water purification by eating the nutrients that are found in water.
The Design Process Behind Aquaponics Exposed in Explicit Detail
The production method known as Aquaponics brings together aquaculture and hydroponics in a single setup. Aquaponics is dependent on the food provided for the fish, which serves as the input for the system. When fish consume this food and metabolise it, they change it into urine and fecal matter, high in ammonia. If there is enough ammonia present, it can be dangerous to plants and fish.
After that, the water in the fish tank, which has a high concentration of ammonia today, is drained into a bio-filter, along with any uneaten food and decomposing plant debris. After that, microorganisms live inside this bio-filter and turn everything into organic nutrient solutions high in nitrogen. These solutions are then used for producing plants.
As we can see, freshwater aquaponics systems rely on three primary components: freshwater aquatic animals (the fish), nitrifying bacteria, and plants – and the survival of these three living things are contingent upon the existence of the others. Because plants would not have access to a type of nutrients that they could use in the absence of bacteria that digest fish waste, biological filtration is a critical process. Additionally, as a result of the growth of plants, the nutrients in the water are eliminated, making it suitable for fish consumption.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) states that many advantages come with using a system design such as Aquaponics to cultivate food. The question now is: what are the advantages of using Aquaponics?
- One of the advantages of using Aquaponics is that it makes it possible to have an intense food production system yet sustainable
- The term “aquaponics” refers to a kind of agriculture in which fish and vegetables are grown together using just one supply of nitrogen, which is fish food.
- The use of aquaponics results in a shallow water footprint. Nelson and Pade state that Aquaponics only requires one-sixth of the water that conventional agriculture does to produce eight times as much food per acre
- Since Aquaponics does not include the use of soil, it is not susceptible to illnesses that are transmitted through the soil
- Aquaponics does not involve employing fertilisers or chemical pesticides
- The term “aquaponics” is synonymous with increased crop yields and improved product quality
- Using Aquaponics reduces the danger of contamination from the outside environment and increases the level of bio security
- Aquaponics enables a greater control (since it is easier to regulate than soil control), resulting in lesser losses in output
- Aquaponics may be utilised in non-arable areas such as deserts, soils that have been degraded, or islands that are salty and sandy
- Aquaponics generates less waste since it imitates the cyclic process that occurs in nature
- Because the daily duties, harvesting, and planting involved in Aquaponics are not very labour-intensive, the industry is open to people of all ages and genders
- Aquaponics may incorporate many tactics for making a living, which can help landless and low-income households secure food and small revenues
- The production of fish protein through Aquaponics is an essential contribution to the nutritional requirements of a significant number of people
- Aquaponics is an organic method that imitates all of the lakes, ponds, rivers and other bodies of water that are found on Earth
- From a dietary point of view, Aquaponics enables the production of food in the form of protein (from the fish) and vegetables.
Each side of a coin is equally important. And based once again on the study from the FAO, we can also uncover several shortcomings that come with adopting an aquaponics system. So, tell me, what are some of the drawbacks of Aquaponics?
- One of the disadvantages of Aquaponics is that it has relatively high initial start-up expenses (in comparison with both hydroponics and soil production systems)
- An in-depth understanding of the natural world is necessary for Aquaponics. Farmers need to be well-versed in the cultivation of crops and the biology of fish and germs if they want their businesses to be successful. Additionally, technical abilities in areas like as plumbing or electrical are required
- As a continuation of the preceding point, it is frequently challenging to locate an environment that perfectly satisfies both the pH, temperature, and substrate requirements of both fish and plants
- When compared with hydroponics or stand-alone aquaculture, Aquaponics offers fewer alternatives for management, which is a disadvantage that was anticipated in advance
- Errors in the management of the system can lead to its collapse in a short amount of time
- Everyday administration is required, which implies the organisation is of the utmost importance
- It has an energy demand, which indicates that it incurs expenditures related to energy usage
- It is necessary to make consistent purchases of fish food
- A healthy, well-balanced diet cannot be achieved just via the consumption of foods grown using Aquaponics
In addition, for an aquaponics system to be successful, it must have an efficient method for filtering out organic solids, which can be accomplished through bacteria or algae. When it comes to aquaponics systems, inefficient disposal of solid waste is the source of more than two-thirds of the failures.
Maintaining an Aquaponics System
Cultivating vegetables and other plants with Aquaponics is an environmentally friendly approach. It is a simulation of natural processes since the “kingdom” of plants recycles the waste products of the “kingdom” of animals (fish) to complete a loop. However, to achieve the system’s balance, keep it maintained, and ensure that the circumstances are ideal for the fish and the plants, it is necessary to exercise careful control over various factors.
The following are the primary production criteria that need to have their ideal values achieved to fulfil the requirements of fish and plants to their fullest potential:
- Air temperature
- The temperature of the water
- The amount of both macro-and micro-nutrients present in the food
- The amount of dissolved oxygen in the air and water varies depending on the type of filtration utilised
- quantities of carbon dioxide in the air and the water
The closer these criteria are to being “perfect,” the more significant the system’s overall productivity will be. The prevention of pests, illnesses and other forms of contamination can be aided by paying careful attention to these particulars. In addition, ensuring that there is sufficient surface area for a bacterial colony to develop to convert all of the waste from the fish while keeping the necessary balance between the nutritional needs of the vegetables and the waste from the fish.
Potential Applications of Aquaponics
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) states that aquaponics systems consist of individual units that can have a wide variety of forms and dimensions. From little units that may fit on kitchen counter-tops and contain goldfish and plants to expansive setups that can house silver perch fish and lettuce. Complex facilities can generate tonnes of fish and thousands of plants each month on an industrial scale.
Aquaponics’ Current Applications:
- Household or Small-Scale Aquaponics System
This fish tank has a capacity of around one thousand litres and a growth space of three square meters; it is perfect for home production.
- Commercial and Semi Commercial Aquaponics
This implies considering an aquaponics system from the point of view of a market in which there are few competitors due to the high initial investment required to put one up.
- Educational Settings
The general public and methods of sustainable agriculture are separated by a distance that may be bridged with the help of small aquaponics units, which are being employed in educational settings.
- Investments in Humanitarian Aid and Efforts to Ensure Food Security
Because aquaponics systems may be set up anywhere around the globe, they can be utilized as test beds in underdeveloped nations to help satisfy the demands of the local population in terms of food security.
Aquaponic System Design and Layout
According to Thorarinsdottir, the three primary aquaponics systems that are now in use worldwide are floating rafts, media beds, deep water culture (DWC), and the nutrient film technique (NFT). In the media beds, a method called “ebb and flow” is used to grow plants on various substrates. In contrast, in the NFT system (which grows plants in a thin layer of water) and the raft/DWC system (which grows plants on floating rafts in large water tanks), the plant roots develop directly into the water.