Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (plant growing without soil). It is a closed-loop recycling fresh water system between fish and plant. Aquaponics provides a solution to the main issues these two systems face; the need for sustainable ways of filtering or disposing of nutrient-rich fish waste in aquaculture and the need for nutrient-rich water to act as a fertilizer with all of the nutrients and minerals needed for plants grown through hydroponic.
How does Aquaponics work?
Fish eat the feed and excrete waste, which is converted by beneficial bacteria to nutrients that the plants can use. In consuming these nutrients plants help to purify the water. As fish eat this feed and process it, they transform it into urine and faecal matter, both rich in ammonia, which in sufficient quantities can be toxic to plants and fish. Afterward, the water (now ammonia-rich) flows, together with un-eaten food and decaying plant matter, from the fish tank into a biofilter. Afterward, inside this biofilter, bacteria break everything down into organic nutrient solutions (nitrogen-rich) for growing vegetables.
Benefits from aquaponics system
· It encompasses two agricultural products (fish and vegetables) being produced from one nitrogen source (fish food).
· It is an extremely water-efficient system. Aquaponics only needs 1/6 th of the water to grow 8 times more food per acre compared to traditional agriculture.
· It does not require soil and therefore it is not susceptible to soil-borne diseases.
· It does not require using fertilizers or chemical pesticides.
· It is a synonym of higher yields and qualitative production.
· Aquaponics means a higher level of biosecurity and lower risks from outer contaminants.
· It can be used on non-arable lands such as deserts, degraded soil or salty, sandy islands.
· It can integrate livelihood strategies to secure food and small incomes for landless and poor households.
· It is a completely natural process that mimics all lakes, ponds, rivers, and waterways on Earth.
· From a nutritional standpoint, aquaponics provides safe food in the form of both protein (from the fish) and vitamins (vegetables).
Weaknesses of aquaponics system
· The very high initial start-up costs (compared with both hydroponics or soil production systems) of aquaponics is one of its weaknesses.
· In order to be successful, farmers need to have knowledge not only on growing vegetables but also on how fish and bacteria work. Technical skills regarding plumbing or wiring are also needed.
· Mistakes managing the system can quickly cause its collapse.
· Daily management is needed, which means the organization is crucial.
· High quality fish feed needs to be purchased on a regular basis.