Aquaponics is a mixture of fish and plant breeding. It allows a diet with 100x less land and 10x less water consumption in a closed system. Nutrients are not washed out by rain and erosion is avoided.
Aquaponics is a play on words between hydroponics (plant breeding with water instead of soil) and aquaculture (fish farming).
In hydroponics, nutrients for the plants are added to the water, which, together with sunlight, enables the plants to grow. The plants can then be harvested and eaten. Since the nutrients move much more freely in the water, the plants grow even faster than in traditional cultivation.
In aquaculture, fish are kept by humans. This can happen in large fish farms in the sea, in inland fishing ponds or in large aquariums at home. The fish must be constantly fed and the faeces of the fish must be constantly clarified, otherwise there is a danger that the tank will tip ecologically.
Both systems have the disadvantage that they work linearly, you have to constantly add feed nutrients and then you can take plant fish and continuously check that the water chemistry is balanced.
Aquaponics now combines the two approaches by converting fish faeces from ammonium to nitrite to nitrate via a biotank. Nitrate, on the other hand, is the best fertilizer for plants. The plants absorb the nitrate and also filter the water so that they can benefit from it. The fish get fresh water again.
Whether one breeds the fish as food or as ornamental fish is left to the operators, but they are still necessary for a functioning system.
Aquaponics simulates the natural nutrient cycles that can be directly experienced and understood (because they are simplified). We humans can already regard ourselves as part of this cycle and see what we take from this system and how we want to deal with our basis of life.
This system can gradually be extended to include other components. Worm farms that make fish food and soil from plant remains are a good example.
The great potential of aquaponics lies in the resource efficiency of soil and water. It produces the same amount of calories on just 1% of land use and only about 12% of water compared to traditional agriculture. More on this in a later article.