The word, aquaponics, may be foreign-sounding, but the practice is beginning to get the attention of many who see it as one sustainable agricultural solution for an increasingly crowded planet.  This is especially true for poverty stricken countries that have limited access to either water or tillable land. Aquaponics systems are even appearing now on rooftops of buildings in urban settings.

Put in the simplest terms, aquaponics stands for growing food without soil. Georgia author Bevan Suits has written an engaging e-book about the topic, “The Aquaponics Guidebook, Access to Personal Agriculture.” Suits’ book opens the world of aquaponics, “so you can learn about it quickly and get started, no matter your experience, budget or available space. Even beginners on a small scale will see amazing results. Greens like lettuce or basil can grow to harvest in four weeks.”

Aquaponics systems are used to raise fish and vegetables without soil

Aquaponics pioneer Wayne Dorband, owner of Mountain Sky Ranch and the developer of many small-scale aquaponics systems,  reports growing and harvesting vegetables, herbs and fish from many of his testing tanks in the low light settings at his company warehouse in Loveland, Colorado. He adds that this method of growing food is innovative, inexpensive, pleasant to look at, and sustainable.

Both Dorband and Suits believe families can use these compact systems worldwide, producing fish and vegetables to feed individuals on an ongoing basis. A viable aquaponics system combines traditional agriculture and aquaculture methods without soil. In short order the system can produce a healthy culture for fish, herbs, fruits, vegetables and ornamentals to thrive. The only additional material required is water.  Fish are fed some of the plants growing in the system, and their waste fertilizes the plants.

“There is no need for additional fertilizer, weed killers or outside food if the system is properly designed,” says Dorband, pulling a trout filet from his freezer that required four months to mature. According to Dorband, the simplest of his aquaponics system can be purchased and installed for less than $100, sometimes using recycled materials. The components used in Dorband’s aquaponics systems come from recycled materials such as 55-gallon drums otherwise destined for landfills, PVC pipes, pumps and washed gravel. No special water is required, as the plants purify local, well, or pond water.

In this You Tube video above, Travis Hughey, founder of Barrel-Ponics, features a system where plants grow without soil, fed by fish waste, and where fish feed on water plants for nutrition. This three-minute video, although somewhat arduous, shows how the system works and is worth the time.

Middle Photo via Bevan Suits