Is Aquaponics the Future of Food?

Currently the world's population is 7.3 billion. By 2030, the population is projected to grow by another billion. And by 2050 it's expected to be just shy of 10 billion. 
The number of people keeps growing without any end in sight and because of it our resources are becoming more and more strained. Rich, poor, black, white, old world, new world, it doesn't matter. Look at any country and you'll see it's getting more crowded. 
So long story short, cities are getting more crowded and food prices will keep going up because there's more mouths to feed and the world only has so much land. Great, so what can we do about it? What's the most efficient way to feed ourselves?

Organic, soil based gardening can certainly produce respectable yields. But it takes a lot of know how, micro-management, and labor to maximize production. You have to frequently dig and handle soil; you have to know how to care for the soil; you have to know how to make compost; you have to control weeds; you have to know your companion plants; you have to rotate your crops properly; you have to deal with pests; you have to know how much to water; you have to deal with animals like birds, raccoons, rabbits, and maybe the odd cat looking for a place to do its business. 
A well managed garden can certainly produce a lot, but it takes a lot of effort if you want a garden to pump out vegetables at full potential.
Perhaps our answer lies with technology, utilizing clever design to replace traditional techniques to minimize input and maximize efficiency and production. When it comes to technologically assisted food production, there are two systems in particular that are worth paying some attention to.
The first system is Hydroponics, a promising system where plants are grown without soil, freeing up the need for land and removing a lot of the hassles of soil-based gardening. But Hydroponics requires that a chemical mixture be made to feed the plants, and then carefully monitored. And the chemical water has to be discharged now and then because of chemical build up. Root rot can also be an issue.
The second system is Recirculating Aquaculture, or Aquafarming, is the practice of raising fish for food, whether in tanks or out in the open ocean in cages. Using this technique you can breed large amounts of protein rich fish much faster and in far denser amounts than by harvesting them from the wild. But like Hydroponics, Aquaculture has its drawbacks. The fish produce a lot of waste. Water has to be drained by 10-20% daily to deal with the ammonia build up. And this waste water usually ends up in a nearby stream and eventually down river. Or you can imagine the pile of waste that forms under an open ocean fish enclosure. Fish are also prone to disease in this environment.
But for both these systems weaknesses the solution is very simple. You combine them.
Enter Aquaponics, the future of food.
First off, what is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the intuitive combination of Aquaculture (fish farming) and Hydroponics (growing plants without soil), solving the shortcomings of the two systems, as well as removing most of the labor of organic gardening. Aquaponics is a self contained loop that does most of the work for us by taking advantage of the same biological processes that occur naturally in ponds, lakes, and rivers. It functions like a small, self-sufficient ecosystem. An aquaponics system focuses on 3 components: fish, bacteria, and plants.
Reasons to Use An Aquaponic System
  • Aquaponics is 100% organic. There is no need for any chemical inputs. In fact, adding pesticides or herbicides can actually damage your system. The only input required is fish food. 
  • It uses 90-95% less water than conventional agriculture because the water is naturally recycled. And there's no waste-water runoff into the ecosystem. The waste water that would normally be discarded in Aquaculture is instead re-used indefinitely. The only time you have to add more water is every now and then to accommodate for evaporation.
  • No digging.
  • There's no need to make hydroponic nutrient mixes due to the nutrient rich environment created by the fish and bacteria.
  • Plants grow at least 2x as fast.
  • Crop spacing can be very intensive, resulting in bigger harvests.
  • The growing beds can be placed at waist height so there's no need to bend over.
  • No weeds
  • Soil borne diseases are eliminated.
  • Fewer pests.
  • You can't over or under water and you can't over or under fertilize, because the system is a closed, self supporting loop.
  • Food miles are significantly reduced since the system produces everything right in front of you.
  • Once an Aquaponic system is established and operational, it's very low maintenance. All that's left to do is what most would consider to be leisurely activities like feeding the fish, and tending to and harvesting the plants.
It all sounds like it's too good to be true, but it isn't. Aquaponics is just a modern system designed for a modern world. It is probably one the most efficient methods of food production available to humans right now. In just one backyard system, hundreds of pounds of fish can be grown as well as enough fresh veggies to feed a family.


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