Aquaponics. The wonderfully sustainable combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in a soil-less water medium). What a brilliant idea! We are looking into this as our next sustainable agriculture adventure in the upcoming year.
Check out this cool video:
But why hydroponics? We haven't had a lot of experience with this type of growing, but from what I have learned recently, there is a big future in hydroponics. For one, it uses 10% of the water that conventional (soil-based) agriculture does, so that right there is a huge savings, particularly as we progress into an era when water conservation is going to become a top priority. Also, conventional, and especially big corporate-based, agriculture is costing us to lose precious top soil at an alarming rate. A soil-less growing method that requires no top soil is going to be so important as many of the world's growing regions become depleted and others become arid. Finally, hydroponically-raised plants grow faster, because you can so directly control the nutrients being fed to the plant, and because the plants have constant, direct access to those nutrients.
And aquaculture? Well, think about. Raising fish creates an inevitable byproduct: fish poop. That fish poop just happens to be an excellent, perfect, organic plant fertilizer. In a properly balance aquaponics system, the hydroponic plants would require NO other fertilizers other than the fish poop being siphoned from the fish tank to the plants. Amazing!
Some of the more common aquaponics systems use goldfish, which are incredibly hardy and can survive the extremes of temperature that are inherent in northern climates, even within a sheltered greenhouse. We are most interested in a system that would raise tilapia, which you could then eat!! We are talking a whole-survival system here, providing protein (fish) and all of your veggie needs. In fact, many developing countries are implementing these systems because of the incredible results and the small amount of input needed. The most expensive part would actually just be the start-up.
Aquaponics is catching on around the country. Though it certainly is not new, this national spotlight is. It's the perfect melding of time and opportunity: people are interested in sustainability because it presents a chance at self-sufficiency and affordability in uncertain times. What is sustainable is often not only healthier, but also cheaper. And aquaponics, excluding the initial start-up costs, is a cost-effective way to grow your own healthy, organic food.
The NY Times just recently ran an article on aquaponics:
Check out this cool website about how to build a basic backyard aquaponics system within a small greenhouse:
And here are some links to more articles and blogs to learn more about aquaponics:
Finally, if you search "aquaponics" on YouTube.com, you will find all sorts of great how-to videos. Good luck!