What is aquaponics?

I just realised that we have never really explained what aquaponics is and how it works, so here goes.

 Aquaponics is a great way to farm both fish and vegetables in the one system. I like to think of it as a ‘fish powered planter’ where the fish provide the nutrients required for healthy plant growth and the plants filter the water for the fish. Functioning much like a natural ecosystem, wastes from one part of the system are used as inputs to the other.

The system relies on beneficial bacteria that are able to process the fish wastes (ammonia) and turn it into plant food (nitrate). Because each part of the cycle can be manipulated it is possible to create a premium growing environment to grow fresh organic produce, quickly, and without the need to utilise heavy fertilisers or pesticides. In fact the whole process needs to be centred on organic gardening principles; otherwise the fish would not be able to survive.

A healthy system has just the right balance between water, air and nutrients. If you can get these three factors right, as well as of course having enough sunlight, you are well on the way to a fruitful and productive aquaponics garden.

I think the best part of all is that Aquaponics offers people a connection to and an appreciation for the food they eat, like nothing else. It is an input and output driven system that really can be really exciting to engage with.  

Hobby gardeners have flocked to aquaponics over the past number of years, relishing the ability to raise fish alongside their favourite herbs, flowers and veggies. The industry as a whole however is still very much in its infancy and only recently are people really starting to experiment with different styles, materials and techniques for gardening aquaponically.

Thanks for reading.

2 Responses to “What is aquaponics?”

  1. Richard March 25, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Rob,

    As a primary producer myself I am a big fan of your cycle analysis, especially with respect to nitrogen cycles.

    The distribution and re distribution of nitrogen has been a hot topic in the livestock industry and in particular the grazing realms for about the last decade. A catch word (purists would say misleading) is cell grazing where the livestock graze on a rotational system (rotational grazing is now the more respected title).

    It is great to see a primary production system that ‘closes the loop’, as for its efficiency I cannot comment. Are there efficiency rates of energy conversation for plant and fish respectively?

    Cheers,

    Richard

    • Rob Armstrong March 28, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for the interest. I think the biggest thing aquaponics has going for it from an agricultural point of view is reduction in water used. Some people quote reductions as high as 90% when compared to conventional farming practices. Fish are also very efficient at converting protein to body weight. Something like 1.2kg of protein can be converted to 1kg of fish weight.

      Thanks again.

      Rob

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