The phrase “urban agriculture,” for most of us, conjures up mental images of small vegetable gardens in backyards and on apartment porches—but visionary aquaponics enthusiasts are making groundbreaking strides in inner-city crop production. With investment start-up costs of about $300, the aquaponic food production system allows devoted gardeners to grow vegetables and harvest fresh fish in their own homes! Aquaponics has been called the merging of aquaculture — the raising of usually edible fish — and hydroponics, or the soil-less growing of plants.
When we combine the two, we employ a food producing system that's 95 per cent more efficient in water-usage than traditional agriculture. We can also produce in a much higher density, and aquaponics is organic by nature. The key to successful aquaponic gardening lies in the regulation of the water in which plants and fish live. Fish (often tilapia or another low-maintenance food-fish) supply nutrients that feed the plants, and the plants clean the water to make it habitable for the fish. Fish poop into the water and produce waste, then their waste is converted by micro-organisms into nitrogen and other minerals and nutrients. When the plants utilize the converted waste, they clean that water for the fish, and then the clean water goes back to the fish. It’s the Circle of Life!
Aquaponics is a tried and true technique dating back centuries, but it’s only now being explored as a way to mass-grow food in urban and non-fertile areas. Non-root vegetables—like tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce—thrive in an aquaponic system, while the edible fish that sustain them can be raised and eaten too, right out of the tank! Aquaponics is gaining momentum fast in the USA, where large-scale commercial facilities have popped up in Chicago, Indiana and Delaware.
Small-scale aquaponic setups are becoming more and popular, too. They can be run right out of the home. The only necessary components are a fish tank, some fish, a small spot to grow produce, some pumps to aid in the water exchange, and a pH monitor to make sure the water stays in balance. Being able to grow a large portion of your own food supply in your home or garage is a huge deal. By embracing aquaponics, you can expect to save big bucks on groceries, especially in comparison to buying organic. More and more, people are learning how aquaponics gardening is a smart and easy way to live comfortably even through rough patches in the economy, rising food costs, and higher gas prices. With such a system in your backyard or even inside your apartment or home you can enjoy a consistent supply of your own fish and fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.
- Rogue Staff