Aquaponics is defined as “the integration of aquaculture (the raising of marine animals, such as fish) with hydroponics; the waste products from the fish are treated and then used to fertilize hydroponically growing plants”.
Simply put, aquaponics is a recycling system, it mimics the natural system of our Earth. It is a system where aquaculture and hydroponics are combined in order to set up a more sustainable and environmentally sound system.
Water used in aquaculture, where marine life is bred, becomes toxic as fish and other marine life go about their daily existence. Water needs to be replaced on a regular basis to ensure that it is clean and healthy for the life being bred.
Hydroponics is the growth of plants without the use of soil. The roots of plants are placed in a liquid nutrient solution instead of soil.
This is where aquaponic farming comes in. The water that has become toxic for the aqua farm, is filtered to the hydroponic farm. Here, the plants absorb what is toxic to the marine life as nutrients necessary for growth.
This cleansed water is then filtered back to the aqua farm where it is again used to farm marine life.
An aquaponic farm has great advantages. Because water is recycled and reused, no water is wasted. It is a very effective measure to conserve water. The plants in turn receive organic nutrients from the water because of the biological waste of the marine life.
Aquaponic farming produces no solid agricultural waste and reduces the size of agricultural land needed to produce crops.
As with all good things, there are a few disadvantages. Setting up an Aquaponic farm will lead to immediate expenses. Equipment required and used are not of the cheapest.
Another factor that plays a role is how the entire system is set up. Configuring a system wrong can lead to failure. Aquaponic farming needs a lot of research and trials before it can run successfully. It is about experimenting, testing and succeeding.
It is also a very fragile system. A simple electronic failure or blocked pipeline can lead to a loss of fish stock. It is thus important that such a system be efficiently designed and maintained.
Logically, these fish need to be fed. This is done by capturing smaller, wild species and basically turning them into food. In the end, it is not a very sustainable way of feeding fish stock and so an alternative feeding method must be applied.
This can be done by either organically produced fish food or growing plants such as duckweed.
It is important to consider the fact that pros and cons must be weighed up against each other by the farmer himself. Although it is a greener choice, the farmer must be able to decide whether it will be an economically sound switch.