We talked about Vertical Farming in our earlier post. Among the various Hydroponics styles, we have Aquaponics that appears sustainable in the long term. So, what is it?
Aquaponics is based on a symbiotic arrangement of growing plants and raising aquatic animals (primarily fishes or prawns) together. It is an artificial attempt to mimic how nature already works in various parts of the world. The wastewater from fish tanks is a rich source of nutrients for the plants and while consuming them, the water gets clean too.
Typical components of an Aquaponics system are
- Rearing tank – These are the tanks where aquatic animals are raised.
- Settling basin – a holding tank for holding waste from the fish tanks, primarily uneaten food and detached biofilms.
- Biofilter – a section to let nitrification bacteria feed into ammonia from rearing tank waster and convert it into nitrates.
- Hydroponics subsystem – This is the plants’ section that consumes water from the biofilter section. The plants could be grown in a regular arrangement or a vertical farm.
- Sump – this is required in regular hydroponics farms as the last part before pumping it in the rearing tanks. In a vertical farm, the water is pumped in from the biofilter to the hydroponics subsystem and the water from the last level runs into the rearing tank.
Aquaponics has several benefits over other Hydroponics methods, like
- Food Variety – Traditional hydroponics methods are only for plants. Here farmers can grow plants as well as raise fishes at the same time, providing for a food variety.
- Organic by nature – Since there is no external artificial feed for the plants, the plants are completely organic.
- Little waste – Since there is no water waste, only top-off for evaporation loss, the losses in the system are minimal
- Higher productivity – Research has shown that Aquaponics output is better over time compared to other Hydroponics methods.
- Lower disease in plants – Aquaponics systems have shown to be at a lower risk of root diseases compared to other Hydroponics methods.
However, compared to other Hydroponics methods, the Aquaponics setup takes more space and cost initially.
Methods similar to Aquaponics have been used in eastern cultivation techniques for ages. Most of the time, it has been clubbed with Paddy which grows in water-intensive fields. So, adaptation in eastern societies is easier than in western societies. However, the growing farm-to-home initiative gels well with Aquaponic methods in Vertical Farms and can be a great alternative in the long-term sustainable farming methods.