Aquaponics a Sustainable Food Alternative

July 30, 2010

The word, aquaponics, may still sound new and foreign-sounding, but the term is beginning to get the attention of many who see it as one sustainable agricultural solution for an increasingly crowded planet.  This might be especially true for poverty stricken countries. Other inspiring descriptors come to mind: inner city agriculture, gardens that don’t waste, poverty gardens, gardens for crowded areas.

Georgia author Bevan Suits has written an engaging e-book about the topic, The Aquaponics Guidebook, Access to Personal Agriculture.” Suits’ book opens the world of aquaponics, “so you can learn about it quickly and get started, no matter your experience, budget or available space. Even beginners on a small scale will see amazing results. Greens like lettuce or basil can grow to harvest in four weeks.”

Aquaponics pioneer Wayne Dorband, founder of World Wide Aquaculture, grows harvests vegetables, herbs and fish in the many testing tanks he has established in the low light settings at his company warehouse in Loveland, Colorado. He points out that this method of growing food is innovative, inexpensive, pleasant to look at, and sustainable. Both he and Suits believe families can use these compact systems worldwide, producing fish and vegetables to feed individuals on an ongoing basis.

A viable aquaponics system combines traditional agriculture and aquaculture methods without soil. In short order the system produces a healthy culture for fish, herbs, fruits, vegetables and ornamentals to thrive. The only additional material required is water.  Fish are fed some of the plants growing in the system, and their waste fertilizes the plants.

“There is no need for additional fertilizer, weed killers or outside food if the system is properly designed,” says Dorband, pulling a trout filet from his freezer that required four months to mature.

According to Dorband, the simplest aquaponics system can be purchased and installed for about $100. The components used in Dorband’s aquaponics systems come from recycled materials such as 55-gallon drums otherwise destined for landfills, PVC pipes, pumps and washed gravel. No special water is required, as the plants purify local, well, or pond water.

The word, aquaponics, may still sound new and foreign-sounding, but the term is beginning to get the attention of many who see it as one sustainable agricultural solution for an increasingly crowded planet, especially for poverty stricken areas.

In this You Tube video, Travis Hughey, founder of Barrel-Ponics, features a system where plants grow without soil, fed by fish waste, and where fish feed on water plants for nutrition. This three-minute video, although somewhat arduous, shows how the system works and is worth the time.


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Glenn Meyers

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.
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