Sustainable Food Systems: Sustainable Aquaponics

Sustainable food systems: sustainable aquaponics

Why is Aquaponic Gardening so Sustainable?

With more and more pressure being placed on our natural resources, both living (freshwater fish, seafood) and non-living (land, soil, water), there is a growing push for alternative sustainable food systems. Aquaponic gardening offers several environmental as well as health benefits over conventional methods of producing food, and it is more sustainable in the long-term. Here are 5 key reasons why we consider sustainable aquaponics  to be one of the best sustainable food systems out there:

1. Sustainable Aquaponics Addresses Over-fishing

Seafood provides the primary source of protein for many people throughout the world. To meet the demands of an ever growing global population, our ocean resources are being over-fished at a rate exceeding that at which they are being replenished. This is unsustainable, and not only has implications for food and job security, but it also has an environmental and ecological impact, disrupting food webs and ecological dynamics.

Aquaculture has been proposed as an alternative that supposedly reduces this pressure, however, it very often causes environmental impacts that are just as bad, if not worse, than over-fishing (e.g. destroying mangroves for aquaculture ponds, targeting important species to use to manufacture fishmeal to feed the fish/shrimps being cultivated, discharging nutrient-rich wastewater effluent contaminated with growth hormones, antibiotics into the environment, etc.). Aquaponics on the other hand is a sustainable food system that provides a source of environmentally-friendly, organically grown fish (protein), together with a side serving of organically grown fruit and veggies, that will never run out.

2. Sustainable Food Systems Reduce Water Usage

In many regions of the world, groundwater supplies are deminishing as a result of being overexploited for use in the agricultural and industrial sectors. This is further exacerbated by climate change and increased drought in many areas. Because aquaponics is a closed-loop system very little water is used. The water in an aquaponics system is recycled — it is pumped from the fish tank (fish provide the nutrients the plants need for growth) to the plant grow beds (where the plants filter the water), with clean, naturally filtered water returning to the fish tank. As a result, aquaponics uses about 90% less water than conventional gardening methods.

3. Sustainable Food Systems Produce Locally Grown Food

Because an aquaponics system can be set up anywhere, it can provide a source of locally grown food, reducing or completely eliminating the need for transportation. This in turn eliminates the carbon emissions associated with transportation, and the food produced onsite is fresher, tastier and healthier.

4. Aquaponics is 100% Organic

No growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides or other hazardous chemicals are used in aquaponics, ensuring that the fish and crops produced are 100% organically grown, healthy and wholesome. Using pesticides and chemicals on the plants will harm fish, while treating fish with growth hormones and antibiotics will adversely affect plant growth. Consequently, neither can be used in a recirculated closed-loop aquaponics system. As a result, the food produced is free from chemicals and other commonly used toxic substances that are potentially harmful to our health.

5. No Wastewater Effluent

Because an aquaponics is a recirculated closed-loop system, no wastewater effluent is discharged from the system. And even if water is periodically discharged for whatever reason, because there are no harmful additives it will not negatively impact the environment.

Aquaponics is a sustainable method of simultaneously producing fish and fruit/vegetables to meet the demands of a growing human population. It uses the principles of ecology — natural nutrient cycling — to grow food naturally in a closed-loop system.

There is no wastage; nutrients and water are recycled, alleviating the need for artificial chemical fertilizers and reducing the pressure on valuable freshwater resources. Fresh wholesome food (fruit, vegetables and protein) can be produced at home all year round, reducing the financial and environmental costs associated with transportation. When it comes to sustainably produced food, aquaponics is the answer. In fact, aquaponics may even prove to be the solution to world hunger.


Sustainable Aquaponics - suatainable food systems
Credit: Waleed Alzuhair