How to cultivate food for 7.3 billion world population is always a perplexing question. Total agricultural land is getting depleted and majority of population is depending on food cultivated by less than 5% of total population. More over in-order to maximise the production, farmers from under developed and developing countries are using pesticides and fertilizers beyond recommended limits. Some developed countries have already given green signal for Genetically Modified (GM) crops. This is leading to dangerous and non curable health problems like cancer.
Do we have a solution for this problem? Can’t we produce our own herbs and vegetables? But in the absence of sufficient land space for cultivation, what can we do ?
Answer to all these questions is Aquaponics. It is a symbiotic system which is very common in nature. It uses both aquaculture, which involves growing and breeding of fish and hydroponics,(Here is 9 hydroponics systems to start indoor garden.) which is cultivating plants in water without soil.
Lets take a look at the aquaponics cycle:
As I explained before, this is a symbiotic relationship between fish, plants and micro organisms. Fish droppings contain ammonia, which is toxic for fish as well, if concentration exceeds beyond a limit. Plants cannot utilize ammonia as a fertilizer directly. But there are some micro organisms which can convert this ammonia to nitrites and then to nitrates. Nitrates serve as a good nutrients for plant growth and fish can live in this clean and aerated water.
A typical Aquaponics system block diagram:
A grow bed is used to cultivate herbs and vegetables. This grow bed is used to culture micro organisms which then converts ammonia to nitrites and then to nitrates. You can choose the size of grow bed and aquarium depending on the quantity of herbs and vegetables you are planning to grow. If you choose a bigger fish tank ( mostly suitable for outdoors) you can grow different types of fish, that becomes a source of food as well.
What are the recommended herbs, vegetables and fishes for aquaponics?
The plants that can be grown in an aquaponics system are:
- Leafy lettuce, Cabbage, Cauliflower
- Herbs like Mint, Basil, Chives etc. Here is list a of 19 herbal plants which can be grown in your kitchen. You can also choose some herbs from this list for your aquaponics system after consulting an expert.
- Veggies like Tomatoes, Cucumber, Peas, Beans are also successful in this system.
Recommended fish varieties are:
- Tilapia, very commonly available and used in aquaponic system.
- Kio is best choice if you are looking for a colorful fish.
- Salmon, Crap and Catfish , if you have a bigger fish tank and if you plan to use fish also as a food source.
Tip: Choose fish which is locally available so that it can withstand climatic conditions such as temperature and pH.
Also read about a complete list of plants and fishes recommended by Nelson Pade of Aquaponics.com
Aquaponic Systems and prototypes available in market:
This is a creation from an Australian company Aquaponicals in Brisbane. They make small and decorative aquaponic systems for home, classroom and office space. The image shown below are white and black aquaponical systems from this company. They ships their products to New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada. This commercial aquaponics system costs nearly 149USD.
2: Grove Labs
Idea formulated by 2 MIT Engineers, Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron, to start an indoor garden. They got this idea of using fish poop as fertilizer for plants, then they integrated this to their hydroponic system. They started this project on Nov 2015 and successfully got sufficient backing and required funds in Dec 2015 through kickstarter.com. Now this system is ready for pre-order. Currently the company has funding of more than 2 million USD mostly from Venture Capitalist and Angel Investors. Recently they got featured in CNBC news : Tank to table: Start-up bets on fish poop to grow dinner. Its cost is around 4500USD now.
Image [ Via: Grove Eco system Grow fresh food in your home ]
3: Kijani Grows
This is another Oakland based startup in aquaponics system by Eric Mandu. He tries to create a smart garden by integrating his indoor garden with computers. His aquaponic garden with sensors makes it a smart aquaponic system. This system contains linux computer controlled sensors to give sufficient water and lighting , which can be controlled by computers. Now this smart garden is available for purchase in Kijani Grows website.
Image [ Smart garden : kijani grows ]
4: Therapeutic Aquaponic System by N. I Teijin Shoji
This is an aquaponics system developed by N I Teijin Shoji mainly for therapeutic purpose. This tubular aquaponic system with vegetables and ornamental fish was developed by Japanese A.A.C , an aquarium production company. It costs approx. 3800USD.
Image [ Via : DigiInfo TV ]
5: The Blue green Box:
This is a kickstarter project by Andrew de Melo. This system includes a 10 gallon fresh water aquarium with gold fish and 4 grow beds filled with gravel. This project was an unsuccessful attempt in kickstarter.com.
Image [ Via Kickstarter.com : Andrew de Melo The blue Green Box ]
6: Eco Farm
This is another kickstarter project from Alex and Nacho of Eco Bird, a Dutch start up Company. This small and mini eco system contains a fish tank and grow bed to grow veggies and herbs for your salad. This is a table top aquaponics system can be used to grow organic herbs and also to have a small aquarium on your kitchen table. Its also was an unsuccessful attempt in kickstarter.com.
Image [ Via : EcoFarm : Grow fresh food with your mini eco system ]
7: The Goldfish Garden.
Another kickstarter project by Ryan Coghlan. This is a self cleaning aquarium with a small garden on top, which comprises of edible herbs and veggies. This prototype also became unsuccessful because it didn’t get sufficient financial support.
Image [ Via: The goldfish garden – self cleaning aquarium ]
8: Grow Tank By Sophia Nicolson
This prototype was developed by a student of Edinburgh College of Arts, named Sophia Nicholson.
Image [ Via: Edinburgh College of Art : Grow tank ]
- What is Aquaponics – from theaquaponicsource.com
- Evolution of Aquaponic – From Aquaponic Journals 2002 by Scott Jones
- For outdoor and large scale aquaponic cultivation, here is a patented Clear Flow Aquaponic system from Aquaponic.com | Nelson Pade. This package involves commercial & home food production and social mission.