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So What is Aquaponics

Nick Savidov
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Crop Diversification Centre, Brooks, AB

For Canadian Greenhouse Conference Wednesday, October 6, 2010 Toronto

Challenges in Agriculture

Limited resources Environmental impact and nutrient management High energy input Economic sustainability of greenhouse operations Existing markets are near to saturation in Europe and North America

How we can address those challengies? Is there magic bullet, which will make greenhouse industry more sustainable and environmentally friendly in 21st century? We need to continue looking for new ideas, outof-box solutions. In future, we may need to completely change our agricultural paradigm, the way we produce food today.

The solution may already exist today, but we are not fully aware of it. Example: Integrated Production Systems, like aquaponics, can be one of the answers What is aquaponics? Aquaculture + Hydroponics = Aquaponics
Clean water Nutrient Rich Water Solids Removal Cleaning Circuit Aeration

What is wrong with this definition?

Fact 1: In conventional hydroponics and aquaculture systems microorganisms are not desirable Fact 2: In integrated systems microflora is an inherent part of the system

The Basic Process: Fish provide source of nutrients, microorganisms convert organic waste and toxic compounds like ammonium into soluble nutrients available for plants, plants utilize soluble salts regenerating water for fish production

Technically, aquaponics is an example of Integrated Production System based on recirculating technology incorporating fish and plant production in one closed loop

Biologically, aquaponics is an example of artificial ecosystem or agro-ecosystem designed for a purpose of food production

This approach is not new. Biocontrol in existing greenhouses mimics food chain relationships observed in nature Integration of fish into the greenhouse production takes the concept to the next level creating fully sustainable artificial ecosystems

The concept is simple, but underlying mechanisms are very complex: involve interactions between the many components of the system

Objectives of the aquaponics project


Technical feasibility Food safety Test marketing Economic feasibility

Tilapia was selected in the present study as a fish component of the system

Nile tilapia Red (hybrid) tilapia

Brooks Aquaponics Facility is based on the Model developed in University of Virgin Island

Fish tanks Clarifiers

Filter tanks Plant growing troughs

Building the plant troughs


1.5 thick sheets of painted styrofoam cut to hold 2 or 4 pots

Generation 4
GeoTube Sump Oxygen chamber
Oxygen Generator

LHO
P1
P3
3 2 4 3

LHO pum p

P2
3 3

Drum Filter
4

CO2 degasing tank

Fish tank

Clarifier Swirl Separators Biofilter tanks

Plant growing bed

Parameters of the system


Total volume 73 m3 Plant area 84 m2 Flow rate 400 L min-1 Fish production capacity 4.5 tons year-1 Basil crop production 2.5 tons year-1

In total, over 60 different crops have been tested since 2002 including four main greenhouse vegetables, leafy vegetables, culinary herbs, flowers, medicinal herbs.

Tomatoes

Bitter melon

Ocimum basilicum

Annual production of herbs in aquaponics


60
Water spinach Swiss Chard

Yield, kg m-2 year-1

50 40 30 20 10 0
Amaranth Lettuce Basil Genovese Choi Basil Osmin Coriander Dill

Portulaca

Basil Lemon

Chives

Cilantro Purdue

Culantro

Fenugreek

Parsley

Spinach

Water cress

Strawberry experiment

Monthly production of strawberry, cv. Albion, grown on coconut coir using hydroponics and aquaponics solutions
hydroponics aquaponics

2 1.8 1.6 1.4 1.2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 April May June July

Long English cucumber experiment

Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics in long English cucumber production, number per sq. m
Hydroponics Aquaponics 50.0 45.0 40.0 35.0 30.0 25.0 20.0 15.0 10.0 5.0 0.0 Coir Sawdust Substrate Biochar

Fruit number per sq. m

Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics: Feed Solution Analysis

Hydroponics vs. Aquaponics: Cucumber Fruit Analysis

Effect of aquaponics water on plant growth: comparison of produced biomass in hydroponic and aquaponic nutrient solutions

Crop Plant Basil Rosemary Cucumber Tomato

Hydroponic Height Shoot Root (cm) (g) (g) 30 226 68 31 141 119 138 1180 219 110 1616 198

Aquaponic Height Shoot Root (cm) (g) (g) 35 301 111 35 226 290 156 1580 274 114 1841 279

Rosemary roots

Hydroponics

Aquaponics

This study indicates that there is a factor stimulating nutrient uptake and assimilation of nutrients by plants grown in aquaponic solutions where nutrients and many organic compounds are derived from fish feed.

Features of the system

The same water was recirculated in the system during eight years and only compensated for evapotranspiration No sodium chloride or calcium build up during this period pH had been stabilized No supplemental nutrients added No pesticides used No waste produced in the system at all

Conclusion

Aquaponics approach provides a sustainable organic solution for greenhouse crop production

Aquaponic modules at CDC Research Station, Alberta, Canada

Multidisciplinary Team
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development,

Canada

Dr. Nick Savidov Dan Watson

Massey University, New Zealand Dr. Mike Nichols University of Alberta, Canada

Dr. Andrew Keddie Dr. Vipan Bansal Dr. Lisa Stein