Aquaponics: Farming the Good Way
Last week I blogged about the new Occupy Gardens movement and it seemed to strike a positive nerve with many people. I believe food production is the most important issue facing the human race so I’ll stay with this theme for another week and probably many more.
Our current industrial farming methods are atrocious; they’re wasteful and extremely destructive. I’ll explain more about the perils of our fossil fuel based agricultural system is future posts but today I want to draw attention to a new way to grow food called aquaponics.
What is aquaponics? It is a constructed ecosystem based on fish, plants and beneficial bacteria that harnesses nature’s propensity to balance growth (survival) with low consumption of resources (water, nutrients or energy…). Essentially, one life form benefits the next in a re-circulating system. Beneficial bacteria create a probiotic environment where fish waste (poop and ammonia) is converted into nitrite and then nitrate which is a usable form of natural fertilizer for plants. In turn, the plants remove the nitrate from the water to fuel their growth leaving clean water for the fish. Other than a little water, the only input is food for the fish. Since fish are cold-blooded, they waste no energy regulating their body temperature making them efficient consumers of food. On average, two pounds of food adds one pound of weight to a fish compared to 16 pounds of cattle feed to produce one pound of beef.
1) Up to 10 times more vegetables per given space. Plants are grown in a soil-less media and nutrient packed water is directly supplied to the roots. Plants can be densely grown because there’s no competition for food.
2) Since nutrient packed water is supplied to the root system, the plants use their energy growing vegetation not spreading roots. The plants grow twice as fast.
3) There are no weeds since wanted plants are densely grown and there’s no soil to harbor unwanted weed seeds.
4) Since there is no soil, there’s no soil borne pests. No pests no pesticides.
5) Aquaponics uses 95% less water than conventional farming or gardening.
6) No daily watering is required since plants grow in a re-circulating water system.
7) Both plants and fish are grown creating two sources of food (meat protein and vegetables).
8) Overall, aquaponics uses 70% less energy than conventional farming.
9) It’s all organic, no fossil fuel based fertilizers or pesticides.
10) It can be replicated anywhere on Earth.
Is aquaponics really a viable form of farming? Will Allen’s three acre Growing Power farm located in the city of Milwaukee WI, produces one million pounds of food per year. Aquaponics is central to his urban operation and has been described as the most productive farm in the country.
Aquaponics, check it out. Demand it. Your grandkids will thank you.
Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.