Every consumer is today exposed to news reports that almost unceasingly report on the dangers that today face our environment. Often these dangers are localized – but some are global in their potential impact. We are told that rising global temperatures, degradation of water sources, worsening soil quality, and the continued pollution of the air that we (and all other species) breathe will lead to disaster. There can be no doubt that these observations are valid.
We are living on a planet that is slowly, but surely being damaged by human activity. It has come to the point where there is considerable uncertainty as to how marginalized and even first world populations are going to stay fed when we take into account this degradation. There is a limit to how much fertilizer we can use, just as there is a limit to how much exploitation our fresh waters and oceans can endure when it comes to the supply of much-needed protein.
However, Mother Nature has provided solutions – all it takes is human ingenuity to first recognize these solutions – and then harness that potential. One of the avenues to solving human hunger is Aquaponics.
In order to understand just what Aquaponics can provide it is important to first understand what it is.
In a nutshell, Aquaponics combines the practices of Hydroponics (growing plants without soil) and Hydroponics, which is the growing of aquatic animals including (but not limited to) fish. Aquaponics eliminates the need for soil (which is an essential part of hydroponics) and uses the waste generated by the fish (or other organisms) in the Aquaponics system in order to ensure the health of the system.
The beauty of this system is that is it closed. There is no interaction with the natural environment. Hydroponics on the other hand can have a severe impact on the environment within which it is practiced. There have been several studies that have indicated the negative impact of Hydroponics on the environment – the simple fact of the matter is that waste produced by the organisms in a hydroponic environment and the excess nutrients will almost always be discharged into the natural environment. In industrial-scale operations, this discharge can have devastating consequences. It can adversely affect ecosystems and contaminate groundwater which is used by communities as a source of drinking water.
Small scale Aquaponics has several benefits and those benefits can be scaled up to include operations that cultivate fish (and other species) for human consumption. The first of these is of course that it is a closed system. Without the presence of soil there is reduced reliance on chemicals and additional nutrients to maintain soil health. In fact, small scale Aquaculture need not rely on external nutrients at all. The fish will feed on the vegetable matter that is present in the environment. That environment will provide nutrients to human beings in the form of vegetable matter grown in the environment – and the other organisms (such as fish or even shrimp) that will thrive in that environment.
There are a variety of fish and freshwater species that will thrive in the environment created by Aquaculture. As far s fish are concerned, Tilapia have been proven to thrive within an Aquaculture setting – and in certain geographical areas, the Barramundi has also been proven a success. Shrimp are also one of the success stories of Aquaponics.
Aquaponics is perhaps an innovation that can contribute significantly to the alleviation of world hunger – and reduce the impact of agriculture on the natural environment. The fact that chemical adulterants are not required to maintain soil health and the fact that Aquaculture / Aquaponics is not as thirsty (in terms of water requirements) as other forms of sustainable food production are both contributing factors to what makes the practice increasingly popular across the globe. The fact that even a modest Aquaculture operation can be scaled up to meet local and even global demand is another fact that speaks in its favor.
The closed system that is part and parcel of Aquaponics is one that is increasingly attractive to those who want to experiment with a sustainable lifestyle – and to larger organizations who want to bring products to market that have a low impact on the environment. It is perhaps one of those approaches that is maturing at exactly the right time.…