What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is an amazing way to grow food and fish together. Both plants and fish are grown in a closed cycle. The fish will poo in the water they swim in, this water is fertilized by their waste. This water will be pumped along the roots of the plants. The plants will grow up to 3 times faster because of the natural fertilizer. At the same time the roots of the plants purify the water and add oxygen to it. Then the water goes back to the fish and the cycle is complete.
Aquaculture – Farming fish in a controlled environment
Hydroponics – Growing of plants in soil-less media
This combination of powerful growing methods eliminates the need for the chemical food/fertilizers used in hydroponics. And, aquaponics allows for the growing of a full range of vegetables, fruits and fish, unlike aquaculture, which focuses on fish production alone.
How does it work?
Aquaponics recirculates water from a fish tank through a vegetable growing bed. Nutrients from the fish waste are taken in by the plants as food, and the plants filter the water to help keep the fish healthy. Food grown aquaponically has the ability to grow in almost any location around the world, as it is weather and pest independent when designed accordingly. Aquaponics creates no negative impact on the local environment, unlike traditional/commercial agriculture in which topsoil erosion (vitamins, minerals and micro-organisms needed to grow healthy food are stripped from the soil), salinization and chemical contamination is a by-product.
Aquaponics offers improvements over traditional soil-based farming, which often requires extensive water, pesticides, fertilizer, tilling and weeding. This labor intensive method eventually results in hazardous chemical and wastewater run-off, as well as fallow soils which are devoid of life and the organisms needed to nurture and sustain plant life. Aquaponics also overcomes the issues of hard clay, sand or contaminated soils. In addition, vegetables, herbs and fruits that are mass produced in this way come from seeds and plants engineered for rough handling, disease resistance and long shelf life.
Why we should switch to aquaponics farming
Food is an essential and necesarry part of any human’s life. But not everyone in this world has access to it. Natural disasters and climate change give farmers all over the world difficult times. Lakes are dissapearing, rivers dry out and in places where it used to rain, the rain has almost stopped. Watermanagement becomes a more and more crucial issue for our planet the coming years. But also to our project it will be a massive keyfactor to succes.
We are running out of fish
And that’s why we should farm fish that are vegetarian’s like tilapia, so no wild fish will be harmed. A lot of people think farmed fish is sustainable which is not true. Most farmed fish like salmon are feed with pellets, fishfood made out of fishmeal. To grow one kilo of farmed fish, usually 6 kilo’s of wildcaught fish is used for food. So there is nothing sustainable about farmed fish, only the ones like tilapia who are vegetarians. We are planning to breed maggots and worms we can use for fishfood.
Aquaponics as a tool to stop eco-crimes at sea?
When Kevin was in The Gambia in 2016 he met the fishermen themselves who go out on the ocean to cut shark fins, a truly horrible event. The sharks are thrown back alive in the ocean while their fins are cut off, after that they slowly die on the bottom of the ocean. The fins will be sold to Chinese businessmen and sent to China. But these fishermen told Kevin that the sharks are becoming very rare and have to go further and further on the ocean with their small boats.
Kevin’s idea is to try to convert these people, from doing criminal activities on the ocean to tilapia farmers in our farm! Sharks are slowly getting extinct at the West-Africa coast. If we offer these fishermen better alternatives we could book a major succes for the sharks here.
Examples of people who made amazing results in aquaponics
Will Allen is founder of his company Growing Power and is growing insane amounts of 100% organic food. Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. Growing Power implements this mission by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.
Bahay Kubo Organics (BKO) is a social enterprise based in the Metro Manila area whose aim is to develop self-sustaining and healthy communities through urban farms and social innovation. They aim to develop a community of urban growers who farm organic produce and seek to spread the use of aquaponic technology in the Philippines. Founded by Enzo Pinga, Ryan Aguas and Illian Pascual in 2012, the childhood friends were in the USA when they decided to return to the Philippines to start something that could help fellow countrymen alleviate malnutrition and food scarcity.
In addition to farming organic produce, BKO offers paid workshops and trainings about do-it-yourself (DYI) urban farming techniques and aquaponics in order to encourage small and micro urban farms.
We visit 13-year old Rikalize Reinecke’s aquaculture and aquaponics business in Kameelfontein near Cullinan, north of Pretoria. Over the last two years she has managed to turn this hobby into a successful business, which is one of the four biggest of its kind in the country.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is going to run our aquaponics farm?
Kevin is already doing a lot of research about aquaponics and finding the best solutions to apply to our project. He is going to do the only course in aquafarming available in Holland to gain more experience and knowledge about aquaponics.
What kind of fish will we be growing?
We will definately start with growing Tilapia. Not only because Tilapia is already common in The Gambia, but mainly because it is a very easy to grow fish which is growing very fast. Tilapia are not very sensitive in oxygen and temperature levels. This makes that Tilapia is the best suitable fish to start our aquaponics with.
Other options are Africa Catfish for instance. Also a species that is already present in River Gambia. Catfish are like tilapia very easy to grow. They don’t grow as fast as tilapia’s but they are also very easy to grow in terms of oxygen levels etc. Other options are shrimps and fresh-water crayfish.