Is Aquaponics the Future of Sustainable Agriculture?
Aquaponics is a soil-less system. Wastewater from the fish tank fills this media bed filled with hydroton, a porous clay pebble, where bacteria thrive and offer structure for plant roots. Plants receive all the nutrients they need through the water. A simple device called a bell-syphon allows for root exposure and water to be regulated or “ebb-and-flow” in a grow bed. As water is pumped into the system, pressure builds until the water reaches the top of a center pipe. Once the grow bed is drained completely, the drain phase will end, releasing the pressure, and the process will repeat. This works without additional energy input, oxygenating the system. Fish in an aquaponics system can be a great source of protein, but they are foremost the powerhouse of the system. Fish waste produces valuable nutrients for the plants that in turn filter the water. In other words, one organism’s waste is another’s meal.
Aquaponics has the potential to reduce our water use, promote community economic development, use significantly fewer resources than traditional agricultural techniques, and provide organic and sustainably grown plants and fish.