Anda di halaman 1dari 13

1 Lowering Regional Food Costs with Sustainable Urban Aquaponic Farms It seems as if each and every trip to the

grocery store yields a larger receipt, week after week. Not only have costs continued to rise exponentially over the last several years (Food costs soar 136), but packages and portions have also followed the same trend, becoming smaller with smaller amounts of food (McIntyre). Food is an essential product that everyone requires, which makes food crops a very large commodity, allowing for these prices to keep rising in the manner they do. People are actually spending a lower percentage of their salaries present day than in previous years primarily due to increased salaries (USDA), however the actual price on several healthy foods has exploded over the years while luxury consumables have stayed fairly consistent (Leonhardt). We see a higher (Leonhardt)

cost of food because of a variety of reasons, one of the primary factors being the cost of fuel in relation to shipping costs. If the involvement of the middle man in food distribution, such as shipping companies and grocery chains, can be reduced the cost of food will follow. While attempting to avoid high food prices presented by several of the healthier food options, many people will also end up maintaining less than healthy diet, such as strict fast food diets (Fast Food Fallacy). By bringing food production closer to the people who consume it, some of these problems can be greatly reduced.

2 Seafood is sparsely available to regions without a coastline and as a result the price on this valuable food resource continues to rise, potentially even higher than other food types because of its already established high demand. Seafood provides health benefits in the sense that many contain a large amount of essential elements such as omega-3 acids (McManus). Along with these essential elements, seafood is typically low in fat and this helps drive a positive public perception of seafood health (Seafood lands healthy rating 1055), which is also one of the primary reasons this is one of the more expensive food items found at the local grocery store. By having this high cost on a very healthy food source, it restricts diets people can have in both land locked areas and large cities, even along a coastline. Limiting this great resource to either only people with the finances to buy it, or those living in particular regions, is unfair to other individuals seeking to diversify their diets. Bringing more sources of locally raised seafood to these types of communities and regions could potentially serve to not only reduce the cost of this delectable type of food, but allow these same areas to consume and maintain a healthier diet. Businesses that could potentially be affected negatively by bringing the distribution of food to a more local level are many, but primarily transportation contractors and food retailers themselves. Both of these industries rely on current methods of transporting, shipping, and displaying food for sale (Ellickson 811), these current distribution models have also been in place for a long time. A way to get around the adverse effects felt by these business owners, is they could too get more involved in local food production, by contributing to the supply chain in the neighborhood and community. Transportation and shipping businesses would be able to still transport and distribute locally grown food to a certain extent as well. The overall effect on the local economy would only potentially improve via local marketplaces and distribution of food

3 between communities. This also doesnt include the many potential businesses that would form around the startup of several aquaponic installations in a local area. The amount it costs to make a trip to the grocery store is a concern for most everyone, but even more so for people residing in dense urban centers because of obvious transportation woes. The idea of a food desert is an area, usually inside urban and suburban areas, consisting primarily of either only fast food chains or large grocery chains several miles from the average residents door (Peapod 25). A method currently being attempted by many retail chains is the simple construction of more stores in these regions (Supermarket construction). This option helps bring food closer to some residents, as does internet distribution methods like Peapods, but this still does not tackle the issue of the high cost associated with both shipping and distribution. This still makes it difficult for these people, particularly those who rely on public transportation, to maintain healthy diets for a reasonable amount of money. By bringing sustainable food producing chains to these food deserts, the cost of food for these individuals will only serve to decrease. This is evident in some areas that have brought food production to a smaller scale, such as North Denvers GrowHaus which brings fresh fish and produce to many people in the community. Their endeavors are described in detail further on, but creating these sort of food producing outlets help alleviate some of the concerns brought about in a food desert, but not entirely. This still does not tackle the issue of distribution or shipping, unless the consumer lives nearby, these methods usually these only seem to bring the same prices just with a bit more ease and health for the consumer, hence why methods need to be developed to bring these foods even closer. Bringing sources of food closer to the people who are eating them seems like it is the solution to many woes faced by urban dwellers and people in areas without ideal conditions for

4 various food crops. Sounds easy enough, but how exactly should this be done? One interesting solution that has been in use in several urban areas for quite some time now is hydroponics. This is the process of growing plants in water enriched with plant soluble nutrients, (Hershey 111). Growing plants in hydroponics also produces crop yields much higher than the amount of space their soil grown equivalents would require. These systems have been providing a lot of the produce, in particular lettuces and other greens, for local grocery chains for several years now. It allows a local source, reducing distribution costs for the store. This is a very efficient and working model, but not optimal. As mentioned above, nutrients have to be supplemented to this system and in return cost money to keep supplying. So though these hydroponic systems reduce many costs and problems associated with traditional farming for the grower, it presents other issues for the consumer, such as passed on costs of hydroponic systems and nutrients. Aquaculture is another commonly used food production source, but in areas with access to large bodies of water such as coastlines or even large lakes and ponds. These are large fish farming operations, raising fish in contained vessels, ponds, or netted off coastal regions. A large portion of our imported seafood comes from aquaculture operations (Chalermwata 250), which are not regularly inspected for numerous health violations and hazards. More people than ever care about what is both put on and in their foods (Baird 115). By bringing fish farming operations closer to the consumer, it allows them to more easily make decisions based on what conditions the food crop has been raised under. Aquaculture operations in several other countries generally have large environmental concerns and impacts. They require a lot of space to operate and pollute local water sources in the mean time (Chalermwata 250). Aquaculture is an outstanding method to bring seafood to more people, especially in developing regions and urban areas, but also not optimal primarily because of the need for water access. With the space that

5 they require and several negative environmental concerns, it becomes difficult to support the propagation of these systems in several more areas. The solution to the issues presented by hydroponics and aquaponics comes in the form of Aquaponics, but how does it relate to these? Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, (Understanding aquaculture 38), or more importantly the process of growing fish, shell fish and vegetables together in a closed system. Several of the problems presented by large scale hydroponic or large scale aquaculture farms is either severely reduced or eliminated with the use of aquaponics. The ideas behind an aquaponic system are not very complex. Fish create waste, thus creating the need for their tank or water to be kept clean and cleaned, one of the primary problems presented with traditional aquaculture. In aquaponics plants derive their nutrients from the fish waste. In return the plants act as a living filter, filtering out waste, purifying it for the fish to now use (Understanding aquaculture 38). How does this filtration process actually take place? Fish produce waste, which primarily consists of ammonia (Terlizzi). This ammonia becomes toxic to the fish if left in the tank, as any person who has had an aquarium knows. The water in the fish tank is now used to water plants similar to a traditional hydroponic system. The plants growing in some other medium, such as river rocks, get their source of nitrogen from the ammonia in the water (Terlizzi). After the plants have now fed on the nitrogen rich ammonia source, the water is then returned to the fish tank. This water is now clean enough for the fish to thrive. This water can also be safely returned to the environment with minimal negative side effects (Rana et al. 981). The versatility of an aquaponic system starts to become quite apparent once a little more is known about how they work. This system of constant filtration and in return constant supply of nutrients reduces costs related with traditional hydroponic gardens and the waste created by

6 traditional aquaculture farms because of the nutrients supplied by fish. The limits for what can be grown in these systems are near endless. Some of the most common combinations are that of Tilapia, Trout, or Catfish with an assortment of vegetables and fruits growing in grow beds (Johnson 47). Vegetables such as lettuce are extremely popular in these systems because they have a long track record of being easily grown hydroponically. Anything that can be traditionally grown in hydroponics can also be grown in an aquaponics setup (Johnson 47). Because of the ability to raise both fish and shell fish alongside fruits and vegetables, it provides a solution for a wide variety of regions to produce a local, healthy source of seafood and fresh greens. Paying for imported seafood that was raised in a similar manner that is easily attainable in several regions domestically makes little to no sense. Aquaponics can potentially lower food costs all while bringing an extremely desired and healthy source of seafood to neighborhoods and regions that normally wouldnt be able to afford these luxuries. An aquaponic setup can be done on either a large scale, such as grocery store or retailer setting up a profitable venture, or much smaller scale like a home owner filling their backyard with fruits, vegetables and fish. The ability for these systems to adapt to many areas is paramount to being a solution for rising food costs in urban areas. Aquaponic installations can be placed on rooftops and other square footage challenged areas (Johnson 47). This sort of adaptation could allow a large number of these systems to be installed in multiple locations around an urban center. Developers and city residing home owners alike could take great strides in supplementing food consumption in residential complexes and areas with aquaponic setups. There are large number of city dwellers who live in single family homes that contain large expanses of less than useful decorative garden space or even open grass area (Otto 20). These spaces could be converted to food producing aquaponic gardens, providing

7 yearly savings for the residents of the dwelling. Many people who live in heavily populated areas do not live in single homes or areas with large yards. A large majority of the people living in these dense urban areas reside in large apartment complexes and other similar condominium developments (Cypher 20). These sort of buildings have very large amounts of wasted space on rooftops dedicated to air circulation systems and other types of miscellaneous industrial equipment (Otto 20). When a large portion of an areas population is living in these types of buildings it only makes sense to attempt to bring aforementioned food production methods as close as possible to these urban dwellers, which would only prove to further reduce transportation and shipping costs mentioned earlier. On the wasted roof space of many of these buildings, aquaponic gardens could be created, with the potential to substitute a large amount of the food consumed by people in the apartment or condo complex. The apartment building could then have a joint effort into producing and maintaining a portion of its own food source. The ability to create these complex gardens is not as easy once the building has been constructed and funding for the project has ended. Several aquaponic installations have been established over recent years all around the country, one such local example is The GrowHaus located in North Denver near 45th and York St. The GrowHaus originally started and still continues their primary objective, which is bringing healthy, affordable food to a community that traditionally cannot afford the luxuries of fresh produce and seafood. They strive to provide a sustainable food source to the area and are a great example of what an aquaponic setup can produce and should be. The project has been a great success thus far and is represented by both community support and recent expansion. They are currently expanding into an even larger space, represented by their current construction of a large greenhouse to bring even more fresh food to local residents in North Denver. Seeing this type of

8 operation up close and personal is a really good opportunity to observe the flexibility and general potential of an aquaponic system of this size. Setups like this are absolutely great, but still dont tackle bringing food production to extremely densely populated apartment complexes in downtown areas. These types of places are great for providing food to areas with spread out housing and single family residences, who could grow much of their own food supply themselves. The residents of these neighborhoods should also be encouraged to setup their own aquaponic systems in their yards and any other available space they may have. The overall goal should be to supplement the food supply for as many people in large residential buildings located in densely populated regions as possible. Aquaponic gardens could easily create the ability for these large residential developments to create their own innerbuilding marketplaces for food to be traded. This food could and would also then be traded amongst the different neighboring apartment complexes and developments. The creation of these small local markets throughout a city would dramatically reduce the amount of food the residents of the buildings would have to purchase from local retailers. There is also a major concern about adulterated foods and what sorts of things are put into our food, hence why the FDA oversees how food is produced, stored and packaged (Giese 66). If residents were responsible for their own food supply, there would be a huge incentive to raise and grow healthy, unadulterated food and its byproducts. These local markets could increase the budgets and amount of available spending cash for people in these residences; also potentially creating small amounts of extra revenue via neighboring complexes and residences purchasing food products from one another. Obviously the only benefit is not financial, but by having access to cheap fresh seafood and fish these city dwellers diet related health and habits would improve, simply because of availability.

9 In order for these types of installations to be successful, meaning the ability to supplement a measurable portion of a large residential complexes food consumption, these large gardens will need to be optimally setup and installed at the time of the buildings construction. The funding for these projects would certainly need to be fairly substantial. Commercial aquaponic setups can easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars cost range (Aquaculture firm fishes). These costs could be covered in a number of ways. The primary being via preleasing agreements with future tenants, just as current arrangements are made for things such as cabinet upgrades, security, along with several other amendments and features. Instead of only contributing to the traditional add-ons and options offered in pre-leasing condominium developments, these people could contribute ahead of time to their future food cost by helping fund a community aquaponic rooftop garden. These gardens would help supplement the consumption of food of these residences. These sort of systems obviously require a certain level of maintenance. Optimally the residents of the complex would band together and share duties, but obviously this cant and wont always happen. An aquaponic garden requires regular maintenance that goes up and above traditional garden maintenance (Understanding aquaculture). In an ideal solution, the residents of the complex would share the duties of maintaining the gardens. Some sort of schedule would be created amongst residents for different tasks and duties, such as required cleaning and plantings. In reality many people want to just lease or buy a place and live there, not doing much else. In addition to not wanting to, many individuals just wouldnt have the time to contribute to the duties required to maintain an aquaponic system. The inability, or unwillingness, of tenants to tend to and maintain these gardens would spark the creation of several specialty maintenance companies that would perform these needed tasks instead. Companies would be created whose

10 sole duty is to provide maintenance to these systems, particularly for large residential developments that would require slightly larger systems as well. The cost of hiring part time workers or signing on independent maintenance contractors to help maintain these systems would still easily be lower than the entirety of the complex needing to buy all of their food, not being able to supplement their source at all. These additional businesses required for these tasks could potentially create jobs and spawn even more additional industries, such as large nurseries supplying copious amounts of food crop seedlings and starters that can be grown quickly. A consistent fish stock that is readily available is also needed in order to successfully maintain an aquaponic system over a long duration (Understanding aquaculture), there would be businesses and individuals who specialize in breeding specific fish that thrive in certain areas, such as in northern regions where fish need to adjust to colder climates (Cnaani 290). Hatcheries, maintenance companies, and several other potential businesses would not only spark a possible economic boom for the area, but reduce the effect felt by traditional distributors and retailers who rely on the current model of food distribution. Unfortunately there are also multiple instances of local and city governments denying projects closely related to aquaponics. Several aquaculture operations are denied due to environmental concerns ("Aquaculture firm fishes). Even though aquaponics directly addresses many of the concerns related to traditional aquaculture, many times aquaponic operations are put under many of the same rules and regulations as noted in the previous case. Urban developers need to be urged to include aquaponic systems in their designs and plans in order to put pressure on municipal governments to become more accepting of sustainable projects in their densely populated urban areas. This same concept goes to inner city home owners who have sufficient yard space to set up aquaponic gardens. The more people and businesses, in particular

11 contractors and developers, that start building these gardens, the more common place it will become while simultaneously making licensing more easily obtained. If the problem regarding the high cost of food is ignored for too long, there could be several potential negative long term effects on social stability worldwide and in particular domestically. Food costs are a very large concern for both everyone in our country and the world. The push to bring local sustainable food sources to areas around the globe and in particular densely populated regions in our country, is essential to keeping local populations well fed and happy. The recent protests in Northern Africa were initially related to rising food costs (Lagi). Along with huge domestic implications, such as local economies becoming strained because of high food costs and less spending power for its residents, there are obviously other widespread issues of rising food costs. With constantly rising food prices being a concern to everyone, and even more so for individuals living in densely populated urban areas, the need to urge developers and personal home owners to help supplement personal food supply is at an all time high. It is also paramount to reducing regional food costs, aquaponic installations can hopefully bring sustainable sources of food to the masses. The USDA recently posted predictions for food prices, the outlook isnt much better than in recent months. The food-price-inflation outlook is a number used to measure how much food prices will rise in the following year, and this number remained unchanged reflecting the same numbers as last year, 2.5% to 3.5% (Berry). The cost of food is of obvious concern, so dramatic steps need to start being taken to help reduce these costs at a regional level first. Focused aquaponic installations, such as those targeting large residential buildings, presents a solution that tackles many problems related to the traditional production, transportation, shipping, and sale of both fresh and healthy food.

12 Works Cited "Aquaculture firm fishes for a site on Long Island." Long Island Business News 23 Dec. 2009. General OneFile. Web. 3 Sep. 2012. Baird, P. Pestacides. Restaurant Business 90.7 (1991): 117. Print. Berry, Ian. "USDA still sees 2012 food prices rising 2.5%-3.5%." MarketWatch. The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23, 2012. Web. 02 September 2012. Chalermwata, K., B.W. Szusterb & M. Flahertyc. Shellfish Aquaculture in Thailand. Aquaculture Economics & Management 7.3 (2007): 249-261. Print. Cnaani, A, Gall, G.A.E, Hulata, G. "Cold tolerance of tilapia species and hybrids." Aquaculture International 8.4 (2000): 289 298. Print. Cypher, L. Matthew, Darren K. Hayunga. "Market competition for highdensity residential land." International Journal of Strategic Property Management 14.1 (2010): 20. Print. Ellickson, Paul B., Sanjog Misra. "Supermarket pricing strategies." Marketing Science 27.5 (2008): 811. General OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. "Fast Food Fallacy: Diet and Cost." Alternative Medicine Alert 1 June 2010. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Oct. 2012. Giese, J. Testing for adulterated foods. Food Technology 56.2 (2002): 66. Print. GrowHaus, The. 4751 York St, Denver, CO. Site visit. Sep. 21, 2012. Hershey, R. David. Solution Culture Hydroponics: History & Inexpensive Equipment. The American Biology Teacher 56.2 (1994): 111-118. Print. Johnson, Charles. Countryside & Small Stock Journal 92.2 (2008): 47. Print. Lagi, Marco., Karla Z. Bertrand and Yaneer Bar-Yam. The Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East Aug. 11, 2011. Wired Magazine. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. Leonhardt, David. "Sodas a Tempting Tax Target." New York Times. The New York Times Company, May 19, 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. McManus, Alexandra. Lynda Fielder, Wendy Newton, James White. Health benefits of seafood for men. Journal of Mens Health. ScienceDirect. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. McIntyre, Douglas. "U.S. Companies Shrink Packages as Food Prices Rise." DailyFinance. AOL, Inc, April 04, 2011. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. Otto, A. Bridget. "Wide Urban Spaces." The Oregonian 06 May 2004: 20. Print. Peapod. Online Grocer Peapod Takes on Food Deserts. Pediatrics Week, Mar. 27, 2010. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Oct. 2012.

13 Rana, S., S.K. Bag, D. Golder, S. Mukherjee (Roy), C. Pradhan, B.B. Jana, Reclamation of municipal domestic wastewater by aquaponics of tomato plants, Ecological Engineering, Volume 37, Issue 6, June 2011, Pages 981-988 SEAFOOD LANDS HEALTHY RATING - JUST DON'T FRY IT, AND SKIP SAUCE, The Times Picayune, The Times Picayune (New Orleans, La. 1994) (1055-3053). NewsBank. Web. 18 Sep. 2012. "Supermarket construction surges 42% since 2008." Retail Week, Jul. 2011. Academic OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. Terlizzi, E. Daniel. Ammonia. My Chesapeake Bay. University of Maryland Aquatic Pathobiology Center and UM Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, n. d. Web. 02 Sep. 2012. "Understanding aquaculture." Restaurant Business Mar. 2010: 38. General OneFile. Web. 3 Sep. 2012. USDA. "Rising incomes in the last 50 years allowed Americans to cut the budget shares devoted to food." USDA Economic Research Service, November 01, 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.