Aquaponics and Its Role in Sustainable Food Production

Vasch~nlwiki / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

As a permaculture designer, I understand that when it comes to designing food producing systems, one size does not fit all. In one location, a forest garden or agroforestry system might be the best solution. But for certain sites, especially in more arid climate zones – aquaponics is another very interesting, sustainable food producing system to consider.

Aquaponics is a system for growing food that combines traditional fish-keeping (aquaculture) with the practice of growing food in water (hydroponics). Aquaponics systems can vary in scope and in exactly how they function but these systems can provide fish and organic produce. They can do so on a small scale in a home garden just as they can in larger, commercial settings. 

Tomorrow, I will share with you one of the larger and more elaborate aquaponics projects I have worked on recently. But no matter how much or how little space, time and resources you have available, aquaponics systems could be an interesting option to consider.

All aquaponics systems share certain features in common, including the way in which nutrients cycle, allowing plant production and fish rearing to work holistically together. An aquaponics system is low-waste. The excretions of fish or crustaceans kept in tanks will gradually build up over time. This waste is usually simply cycled out of the system in traditional aquaculture.

In an aquaponics system, however, the nutrient rich, excrement laden water is fed into a hydroponic system, where bacteria will break down the waste in the water into nitrates, which can provide nutrition to plants whose roots are given access to the water. This water, cleansed by the plant roots, can then by cycled back into the tanks that it came from, keeping the water in the fish tanks fresh and the fish happy. 

The Benefits of an Aquaponics System

An aquaponics system can have a number of advantages over other food production techniques that you might use in your garden. These include:

  • The chance to gain a dual yield of both plant matter and fish.
  • Enhanced productivity and faster plant growth.
  • Reduced water usage. (Traditional gardening can use 20x as much water as a recirculating system.)
  • Reduced land use and optimal use of space. (Aquaponics systems can be suitable even for very small spaces.)

If you would like to learn more about aquaponics, please do get in touch. I don’t have my own system, but have helped others to design and implement their own on a range of different scales.

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