9 Benefits Of Aquaponics For Sustainable Food Production

The way my family got into aquaponics was quite an accident.

We wanted to build backyard fish pond but got into serious challenges with water filtration and sustainability. As we didn’t wanted to use expensive and professional water filters so we started to water our backyard garden plants with this water and step by step got into building our first aquaponic system.

As time passed by and we started to grow my own vegetables with aquaponics it became evident that the products were extraordinary. Plants grew much faster than before, in our soil garden, and the taste was much different than what we have grown before. Much tasteful.

This is where we started to realize great benefits of the aquaponic system over traditional farming.

Read more: My aquaponic journey and how it all started

A couple of years later as we learned a lot about it, and believe it or not there is a lot to learn about aquaponics, we have built one commercial aquaponic system in our first greenhouse. Last year we have produced almost 4.000 kg of tomato in this 100 sqm greenhouse.

In this article, we want to address some great benefits of aquaponics and share with you what we have learned through the years.

What Is Aquaponics?

To put it simply, aquaponics is an ecological and sustainable system of healthy organic food production without using soil.

Aquaponics refers to a system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water), in a symbiotic environment.

It is a system in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals, supplies the nutrients for plants. Plants are grown hydroponically and they are purifying the water for fish.

aquaponic system

Read more: Aquaponics 4 beginners

Aquaponics Benefits

Aquaponics systems are a great solution for healthy organic food production. Aquaponics provides a great number of benefits compared to traditional farming and hydroponics. But for the purpose of practicality let’s focus on the most important ones:

  1. Produce fresh and organic fish and vegetables with aquaponics
  2. Plants grow faster and taste better with aquaponics
  3. Aquaponic systems are easy to build and cheap to run
  4. It requires 6x less space than traditional farming
  5. It require 90% less water than classical farming
  6. Aquaponic systems are easily expandable for commercial purposes
  7. It’s sustainable and eco-friendly way of food production
  8. Aquaponics is an efficient way to produce out of season products
  9. It’s employing the whole family in sustainable farming

Aquaponics Produces Fresh And Organic Fish And Vegetables

Aquaponic systems are ecologically sustainable systems that produce two healthy organic products: fish and vegetables. In aquaponics there cannot be any pesticides or herbicides used, making the end product healthier and safer.

To produce high-quality vegetables and achieve great crop yields healthy fish should off course be in the first place and have the highest priority for every producer. First of all because in aquaponics we are feeding the plants with nutrients that are the product of fish waste. If your fish is not healthy it will not produce needed nutrients for the plants. Also if the fish is not healthy and happy your fish products will be of low quality.

In aquaponic systems, fish lives in a healthy and acceptable environment because the plants that you are growing in your aquaponic system are purifying the water for the fish. Expensive filtration and water replenishment are substituted with plants. After the water is used by plants we can safely return it to the fish without any problems and get great aquaculture environment.

In the aquaponic system, although the fish is not in their natural habitat it has all necessary conditions for healthy growth. You are not exposing it to anything that fish itself could not accept in nature.

We understand that all this can sound quite complex but in reality, it is not so hard to transform recirculating aquaculture system into the aquaponic system. This enables you to grow not only healthy fish but also healthy organic vegetables.

aquaponic produces fresh and organic fish and vegetables

Plants Grow Faster And Taste Better With Aquaponics

Instead of using dirty soil and chemical solutions for growing your crops, aquaponic systems use highly nutritious fish waste. This waste contains all the ingredients and nutrients for optimal growth of your plants. By eliminating the soil in vegetable production, you eliminate all soil borne disease.

For this reason, food grown with aquaponics tastes better and grows faster than conventionally or hydroponically grown food. Perhaps it is the simplicity and natural way of the process.

With no chemicals to alter or mask the vegetable’s true taste, food simply tastes better.

The fact that plants have access to nutrients 24 hours is probably another reason that makes plants grow faster. For instance, vegetables such as lettuce, which takes approximately 2 months to mature when planted normally in soil have been proven to mature in approximately one month when grown in aquaponics systems.

plants grow faster and taste better in aquaponics

Aquaponic Systems Are Easy To Build And Cheap To Run

Besides the initial investment in the greenhouse and aquaponic system construction, labor and energy are usually the two greatest ongoing aquaponic system expenses. However, aquaponic systems are much cheaper to maintain and run than traditional hydroponic systems.

Annual running costs of aquaponic systems are made of electricity costs for the water pump that circulates the water through the system, fish food and small amounts of water that we need to add to the system due to evaporation. These costs are usually fixed and depend only on the scale of the system.

One of the greatest benefits of aquaponics is the fact that it does not require a lot of labor. In aquaponics, there is no soil, weeds, soil pests or pathogens. Thus, there is no labor required for tilling, cultivating, fertilizer spreading, compost shredding, manure spreading, plowing cover crops in, or irrigating. Seeding, planting and most harvesting can be done standing and working at waist level.

When you have established stable aquaponic system all that it is required is to track and control main water parameters, feed the fish and monitor your crops. You can control water when you notice some problems with plants but it is advisable to do it preventively for the best results.  

Aquaponics Requires 6x Less Space Than Traditional Farming

Another great advantage of aquaponics over traditional farming and hydroponics is that you can combine many different crops in the same system on much smaller space. Statistically, in aquaponic systems, you can grow as much as 6x more vegetables compared to traditional farming.

In the hydroponic system, you can grow only one crop as you need to set specific nutrient conditions for the specific crop and it is hard to use it on other crops. In aquaponic systems water that circulates is suitable for any crop as there are no additives and chemicals in it and the plants are taking only what they need.

When we speak about aquaponic systems that are about 100 sqm large, in general, it is required to have about 30 sqm of space available for the fish tanks and filters while the rest is available for healthy and organic food production. But in general, the space required for tanks and filters will almost stay the same even for the 500 sqm crops production space. The bigger aquaponic system you have the greater potential for its profitability you can exploit.

Last season we have been using dutch bucket system for our tomato production. In each bucket, we have had three tomato plants but we would not recommend this to everyone. This system, with three plants per bucket, has enabled us to grow almost 4.000kg of tomato last season in 100 sqm greenhouse.

This is how it looked in the middle of the season.

how to grow tomato in aquaponic system

Read more: How to grow tomato in aquaponic system

Aquaponics Require 90% Less Water Than Classical Farming

When we water plants in traditional farming we are spending a lot of water because a large part of it evaporates or goes deep in the ground.

Aquaponics is using up to 90% less water than traditional farming because we do not waste any water anywhere. In aquaponic systems, we are using the same water all the time. Water circulates between fish tank and plants and the only water we spend is what is absorbed by plants. Very small part of water evaporates from the fish tank but this is negligible.

Compared to hydroponic systems, in aquaponic systems practically you do not need to change the water ever. All you need to do is add small amounts of water to the system to substitute the water that evaporates and that is used by plants.

Water that circulates in the aquaponic system can be used permanently and you only need to add the amount of water that your plants absorb and that evaporates due to water circulation.

aquaponic requires 90% less water then classical farming

Aquaponic Systems Are Easily Expandable For Commercial Purposes

The aquaponic system allows you to produce not only healthy organic food and fish for your household but also to develop large-scale systems for commercial use. This way you can produce and sell healthy organic fish and vegetables on the market and develop the profitable business around it.

Aquaponic systems are very productive especially in situations when we have limited surface and water resources.

Although aquaponic systems require some startup investments, because of its low maintenance costs and sustainable effects, they are one of the most efficient way to commercially grow healthy organic food.

Off course, the costs of the aquaponic system directly influence your profitability and break-even point. That is why it is important to effectively improvise to be able to save money on startup investments. On the other hand, through exploitation aquaponic systems save a lot of money, water, energy and other valuable resources.

Aquaponic systems produce high-quality organic products and greater crop yield per sqm comparing to hydroponic systems or traditional farming. But, just like in any business, it is important to do the proper market analysis before you choose what products you want to produce for commercial purposes.

Read more: Profitable aquaponics, marketing, and costs

What you want to do is invest money in the production of profitable products that you can easily sell on your local market. The most profitable products are not always the best choice. It is vital to assess demand and distribution possibilities on the market. The best is to sell products on your local market where you can save money on transport and additionally contribute to the environment. The benefit of this approach for local buyers is the fact that they will always have fresh products.

You could sell your organic aquaponic products:

  • At your farm or facility
  • On farmers market
  • To restaurants
  • Grocery stores
  • Through community supported agriculture initiatives
  • To institutional buyers
  • To other producers
  • Via wholesale
  • On a roadside stand

Aquaponic Systems Are Sustainable And Ecologically Efficient

Aquaponics is all natural and environment-friendly method of production. In aquaponic systems plants are grown just like in nature without any additional chemicals and what you get is 100% natural organic products.

There are several proven ecology effects of aquaponic systems that are mostly important.

Water preservation

As we have said, aquaponic systems use 90% less water than traditional farming. In aquaponic systems, water is recycled in a closed loop that preserves it. This makes them perfect for regions that have problems with water availability and quality.

Protection of rivers and lakes  

For traditional land farming to be effective vast amounts of fertilizers are used that eventually end up polluting our rivers and lakes. With aquaponic systems, we use absolutely no fertilizers and pesticides.

Energy efficiency

We only use electronic energy in aquaponic systems. This way alternative energy sources like solar panels, wind turbines or any other system for producing renewable energy can be used to power your aquaponic system farm.  Aquaponics energy usage is from 70% to 90% less than a conventional or organic farming which uses fuel and/or petrochemical-intensive fertilizers. All energy used is electrical, so any alternate energy systems can be used to power an aquaponic farm 100%. This alternate energy can be produced locally instead of being shipped in from oil-refining countries, which may be great distances away from the end-user (this shipping over great distances requires still more petrochemical energy).

No toxic circle

Besides these important advantages of aquaponic systems, compared to traditional farming, we should underline another very important advantage over hydroponic systems. Because of high concentration of fertilizers that are used in hydroponic systems, “toxic circle” can be created. Because of these toxic effects and nutrient deficiencies, plant roots can rot and plants can die. In aquaponic systems, because of natural conditions, we have no such effects and the toxic circle does not exist.

aquaponic system are sustainable and eco-friendly

Aquaponics Is An Efficient Way To Produce Out Of Season Products

Vegetables that we want to offer out of season must have very good quality.

Out-of-season products are hard to produce by traditional farming methods. To be able to grow vegetables out of season producers are using controlled conditions and chemicals. For these reasons production of out-of-season products is specific and requires significant investments.

This is where aquaponics brings the most benefits. Aquaponic systems are extremely suitable and conditions in aquaponic systems are easily controlled.  

Your aquaponic out-of-season products will be much better and more competitive than traditional farming products. You will get healthy organic products that really taste the same as the products grown in the season. This will justify all the investments you have made in your aquaponic system.

Aquaponics Is Employing The Whole Family In Sustainable Farming

An aquaponics system is easy and fun to make. Kids get the reward of studying all about how fish and vegetation are vital to each and every other’s survival and you get the reward of refreshing fruits and veggies developed in a minimal servicing contained system.

Kids can be a part of each and every part of your aquaponic experience. Get your kid’s enter on their favorite varieties of vegetables or fruits. When you can plant a seed and then see the food that is produced, harvesting your fruits and veggies is so significantly much more rewarding.

On the other hand, if you plan to set up a commercial aquaponic system and develop the profitable business around it, it is a great way to employ the whole family. As running aquaponic system requires much less labor to get quality products and high crop yields all the work can be enjoyable and you can save a lot of money by doing it all “in the house”.

Conclusion

As the soil is getting more and more contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides and organic food is becoming more popular around the world, it is evident that aquaponics provides us with great benefits over traditional farming and hydroponics to solve all the challenges.

These are just a few of them but there are many other beneficial reasons why you should consider aquaponics if you want to grow healthy food for your family or build a commercial system and develop the profitable business out of it.

For all these reasons and by noticing the trends around the world we expect to see more and more people getting into aquaponics in future.

Srdjan Radin

Srdjan is urban farmer and designer of aquaponic systems with great experience in applying modern techniques to healthy and organic food production on small spaces. In past couple of years, Srdjan held many lectures and presentations about aquaponic systems and has devoted his life to aquaponic as one of the most beautiful ways to make money from home and enjoy in healthy organic food products at the same time. As a local farmer he has achieved great reputation in his region because the products he produces are speaking about them selfs and Srdjan’s techniques, with great taste and quality.

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