The world population has recently reached the six billion mark, with the United Nation’s projections indicating nine billion by the year 2050. These figures represent a global crisis for food and water supplies. Former Senator Paul Simons of Illinois said, "Within a few years, a water crisis of catastrophic proportions will explode upon us unless aroused citizens demand of their leadership actions reflecting vision, understanding and courage."
With the demand for water doubling every 21 years and food supplies expanding more quickly than they are able to be replenished, governments are searching for alternative solutions. One such solution is that of aquaponics.
Aquaponics may not be the answer to all of our future food supply and environmental issues. Grains and root crops, for example, will probably always be most efficiently grown in the soil. But for above ground, vegetative crops and fish protein, there simply isn’t a better growing technique on, and for, the planet than Aquaponics.
1) In aquaponics there is a significant reduction in the usage of water(compared to traditional soil methods of growing plants) as all water is recycled through the system and it is not necessary to discard or change any water (under normal conditions).
2) The Growth of plants is significantly faster then traditional methods using soil.
3) There is no need to use artificial fertilizer to feed the plants.
4) There is no need to dispose of fish waste or provide an artificial filtration system.
5) Significant reduction in land is required to grow the same crops as traditional soil methods.
6) Aquaponics grown vegetables are bigger and healthier then when grown in soil.
7) It's easier to setup for year round use compared to traditional gardening methods as grow beds are raised off the ground and growing area is compact allowing for economical "green house" type methods to be employed.
In aquaponics crops can be grown up to 80% closer then when grown in soil.
10) Reduced damage from pests and disease because plants are stronger and healthier.
11) No weeding or bending down on the ground required.
12) if you are not comfortable with your excess fish going on someone else’s table than the fish in an aquaponics system don’t need to be a food breed, they can be something like gold fish, which you can get quite a bit of money for if you do it right, I do both.
Do you think aquaponics is going to solve the worldwide food problems? Here is the problem with that:
1) First world countries have the technology, electricity, space, etc., to build these systems. First world countries are not in want of food, and make up a relatively small percentage of world population (the USA is #3 behind China and India and has about 1/4th the population of either), and an even smaller number when forecasted to 2025 (The USA is expected to rise to 352 million from 304 million, a rise of 48 million, while at the same time China is expected to go up to 1458 million from 1333 million, a rise of 125 million, EVEN WITH their one-child laws)
2) The countries that are expected to have food shortages are also the poorest countries with the most dense populations, and do not have the necessary infrastructure to build hydroponics systems. Hell, they wouldn't HAVE food shortages if they had our industrial food production systems and as much farmland as us.
3) Even IF every country on Earth has a surplus of food, it would not, in the long-run, stop food shortages, because the human race will always increase in number to a point where our population is in balance with food production. We have thousands of years of history to back that one up.
In ancient times before they were wiped out, farmers in the amazon (same people who invented biochar) grew plants on little islands with moats all around them. They just tossed the plant detrius in the moats and the fish ate the bacteria that ate them. Seasonally, they scooped out the fish waste and put it on the islands. (sorry can't find a link for that one).
Anyhow, we've gotten pretty high tech with it especially in northern latitudes, mainly to conserve heat and labor, and to stock fish densely. But it is absolutely compatible with permaculture and appropriate technology if that's how you set it up.
As we all know in permaculture, low-tech does not mean simple!
I've been really interested in aquaponics for 4 or 5 years but have been put off by the (relativity) high cost of initial investment and the high chance of failure in the course of developing the specialized knowledge set necessary to make it work. I'd still really love to try it though.
Freakin' hippies and Squares, since 1986
Location: Madison, WI
posted 5 years ago
You're right that it can be expensive and has a seriously steep learning curve - like nothing I've ever seen before. Books are great. Youtube is great. But neither are enough.
The secret to doing aquaponics well without losing your mind or spending a million dollars is counter-intuitive and not how us DIY permaculture types like to do things. Probably people on permies will get mad for my suggesting this, but there's no way around it.
The truth is that the best way to do aquaponics is to find someone who knows their stuff and pay them to guide you through the process. A good guide can work with materials that you have and your goals, not trying to put their design on you.
You could try and find someone who would help you for free, but most people who really know their stuff have spent so much money, time, and effort banging their heads against the wall that they'd like to be compensated for that.
Believe it or not, if you hire someone good to help you, you'll spend 1/4 of the time and less money. Over time, the energy saving and fish-kill-prevention tips they can offer will save you much more. Hiring someone to help you over the phone can even save a lot of time and money, though not as much.
Is that what I did? Well, no. But that's because there wasn't anyone else doing it on a backyard scale within 50 miles, and my design goals were way outside what had been done before.
Think about it. I give this advice often and nobody likes it. But it's true.