There is much controversy that exists around aquaponics and how it fits within a permaculture design framework. Much of the discussion however has been very one dimensional in nature and so in order to provide a whole of systems comparison I will attempt to assess aquaponics against the 12 defined principles of permaculture. Just remember I may be a little biased.
|Observe and interact||I believe that aquaponics offers people a connection to and an appreciation for the food they eat, like nothing else. The amount of observation and interaction required to maintain a healthy system has it score very highly in this area.|
|Catch and store energy||Aquaponics is able to in-directly capture and store energy in the form of food. In fact fish have a markedly better feed conversion ratio than any other farmed livestock.|
|Obtain a yield||Aquaponics is an intensive form of food production and can be very high yielding.|
|Apply self-regulation and accept feedback||The ecosystem that exists within aquaponics is very much self-regulating. As more nutrients enter the system, bacteria and other organisms like fungi and worms naturally colonise to process the additional nutrients.|
|Use and value renewable resources and services||This is a definite point of contention and the outcome really depends on the system itself i.e. has renewable energy been used to power the pump; has the system been built from recycled materials; has a low impact grow media been used & does the system try to minimise its electricity use. The super-efficient use of water and nutrients in aquaponics needs also to be recognised here.|
|Produce no waste||The inherent closed loop nature of aquaponics truly means that it is free from any wastes and is a big thumbs up here.|
|Design from patterns to detail||I believe that aquaponics has helped to identify a number of shortcomings in our current food system and it offers people an opportunity to do something about it if they so choose.|
|Integrate rather than segregate||Aquaponics is a great example of a working ecosystem. You feed the fish, the fish produce wastes, bacteria convert these wastes into food for the plants, the plants take up the available nutrients thus cleaning the water for the fish.|
|Use small and slow solutions||What is remarkable about aquaponics is its uptake by the home gardener. The slow but steady growth that has occurred in the backyard farming setting is allowing this technology to mature at a safe and sustainable rate.|
|Use and value diversity||Aquaponics thrives on diversity. The greater the number of fish and plants in the system the more resilient it will become. Diversity in organisms like bacteria, fungi and worms will also create a healthier system.|
|Use edges and value the marginal||Aquaponics is definitely an outlier. Only recently have people really started to experiment with different growing techniques and technologies. I believe that it is important to continue developing knowledge in this area as it just may be a critical part of the overall food system into the future.|
|Creatively use and respond to change||I believe aquaponics is still very much in its infancy and that we are about to see an explosion of creativity in this space as people begin to reinvent and redesign aquaponics as an urban farming practice.|
So as you can clearly see from my slightly biased assessment of aquaponics, it ranks fairly highly as a permaculture design technique. Who could argue with that?
Thanks for reading.