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What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture in a recirculating system and hydroponics (the soil-less cultivation of plants). The plant crop utilise the waste (nutrients) released by the farmed fish to grow hydroponically and the crops in turn purify the water for reuse by the fish or other aquatic creatures. Simply put, Aquaponics is growing fish and plants together.
 
The global shortfall between the growing demand for seafoods (freshwater and marine) is being met through the farming of fish, or aquaculture.  Aquaculture in a recirculating system employs filters to remove the wastes produced by the fish so that the water can be returned to the fish tanks without poisoning the fish.  This allows for the water to be heated or cooled cost effectively to the optimal temperature for good growth of the fish, but does result in the loss of some water as the dirt is washed out of the filters.


Hydroponics is the farming of plants in a soilless (water and/or gravel is used) environment by providing the nutrients the plants require to the roots through the irrigation water.  These nutrients are from inorganic sources and the entire solution needs to be dumped from time to time to prevent certain components from exceeding the desirable levels for the plants.
 
In Aquaponics, however, microbes in the water convert ammonia from the fish waste to nitrates which the plants then take up and use to grow. Aquaponics therefore merges the best properties from both Aquaculture and Hydroponics, and produces a flourishing vegetable and fish crop from a small footprint, with no water wastage in an environmentally responsible way.
 
There are many advantages of Aquaponics as compared to aquaculture, hydroponics or farming crops in the soil.  These include faster growth to market size, higher production levels, fewer disease issues, superb taste of the crops and shorter period to first harvest. These advantageous make Aquaponics a powerful farming method in the effort to end world hunger. Aquaponics uses far less water than conventional farming methods. Furthermore, as Aquaponics is intrinsically a natural and healthy method to produce the crops, we have the opportunity to utilise soft and environmentally appropriate treatment methods to address the pest issues that affect the crops, thereby enabling us to produce a wholesome, organic product.  This last point, along with the distinctly more intense aromas and flavours of Aquaponically grown crops, is what drives Aquaponics SA (www.aquaponicssa.org) to want a clear distinction in the market place between Aquaponics crops and other crops.
 
Aquaponics can be farmed in small indoor ‘household-scale’ systems or slightly larger ‘backyard systems’ or huge commercial-sized systems with none of the benefits of this ethical, responsible, gentle on the earth farming method being lost.

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