As the 4th year of the drought in California lingers on, it’s not uncommon to be a little concerned about our food and water future. On the bright side, I think it’s also a great time to highlight a promising farming technique and stir up some excitement! This technique is called Aquaponics and it is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics.
Aquaponics systems have a huge opportunity in California because they use up to 90% less water than conventional farming. It is not only a great water saving technique, but you can produce up to ten times more vegetables in the same amount of space and time compared to conventional farming; and the cherry on top? Aquaponics uses up to 75% less energy than typical farming and that energy being used can easily be offset by a solar installation. With all of these benefits it’s hard to overlook the opportunity that aquaponics can bring to our current water shortage.
Now that you know the impressive benefits of Aquaponics, let’s dive (no pun intended) into the details. At it’s base level, Aquaponics is a farming technique for growing fish and veggies for either a commercial business or at home. The technique involves the combination of hydroponics, aquaculture, and healthy bacteria. Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in water and aquaculture is the process of growing fish, or other aquatic animals, in water. Simply said, the ammonia rich excretions from the fish, are filtered through bacteria. The bacteria convert the ammonia to nitrites and then nitrates through a process called nitrification. The remaining nitrates are then taken up by the roots of the plants for food. Once the food has been taken up by the plants the water has been cleaned and is ready to be pumped back into the fish tank. Thus, in the end you have a water cleaning system, a feeding system for plants, and a food production system for the farmer, pretty cool!
Not only is Aquaponics great for growing your own fish and vegetables, I see a great opportunity for developing them in the landscaping and open spaces of parks and homes. These systems can be incorporated into visually pleasing landscapes brimming with colorful flowers or decorative plants (See article and photo of vertical garden).
There really is no end to creativity when it comes to these systems and they can be easily created in small spaces. I have some ideas of my own for an Aquaponics system and will be sure to keep you posted. Hopefully we’ll start seeing Aquaponics systems crop up in backyards, decks, and farms all over the region – if you want to be the first in your neighborhood, click here!