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Explain agenda
Aquaponics is a technology used to grow fish and plants sustainably and it's
based on the concept of a closed loop cycle.
It also allows the fish waste to replace many of the nutrient salts and fertilizers
used in other forms
A more complex example of an aquaponics system
Notice the loop
The cycle has four stages
Provides key nutrient nitrogen in form of macronutrient
Closed cycle fish create ammonia in waste, bacteria break it into nitrates, plant
absorb nitrates to get nitrogen, clean water returned to fish
Here is a more in-depth description of the Nitrification suite in which fish waste
becomes plant food
One set of bacteria metabolize the ammonia, creating nitrites
The next set of bacteria metabolize the nitrites, creating nitrates
Managing this process is very important as ammonia and nitrites are highly toxic
to fish, and even nitrates at certain concentrations become toxic.
At the same time, a certain level of nitrates needed to be maintain so plants can
To manage these, a ratio of fish (and fish waste) and plants must be balance
Managing the nitrification is only one part of the task of Water Quality
Water Quality Management is a critical task in aquaponics as it can quickly and
significantly disrupt a system killing fish or stunting plants
Nitrogen is not the only nutrient other nutrients are needed systems are
sometimes deficient in nutrients, especially Iron which may needed to be
supplemented. Nutrient concentrations interact with each other and can limit
each other
Other important aspects are pH which effects the productivity. Optimum pH for
health and nutrient uptake in plants is usually in the range of 5.5 to 6. Nitrifying
bacteria on the other hand perform best (in terms of ammonia reduction) at pH
levels of 7 to 8.541 . Fish are usually intermediate in their requirements,
generally preferring pH 6 to 7.
Systems often go acidic so buffer is need
Temperature is important for fish as can kill them
Here are 3 findings that suggest aquaponics has great potential to save water
Furthermore, the remaining water is not full of pollution that agricultural run off is
after all fish have to survive in it
Growth rates of plants are likely to be higher in aquaponic and hydroponic
compared with
conventional horticulture systems because of higher concentration in nutrients
Not system is perfectly independent of biosphere
However, because of the lack of soil and closed loop water, it is less disruptive
than conventional farming
Also, because it is not tied to the land or natural bodies of water, it can be used
in many circumstances where conventional farming cannot
This could increase local food access
Good example would be Northern Canada
Because of symbiosis, conventional forms of growth management and pest
control cannot be used
For instance, herbicides and pesticides hurt the fish
Chemicals to treat the fish will be absorbed by plants
Increases difficulty of management, but also sustainability
Micro-fauna and flora may inhibit mutual diseases of plants that hydroponics
often face
In my opinion, aquaponics is well established among hobbyists and there have been
commercial initiatives. A recent initiative is with Fresh City Farms at Downsview.
It is well established on a community level
still relatively inexperienced community
still relatively inexperienced community
Survey and anecdotal suggest the majority of aquaponics community is private,
individuals, so a lot of method and work is based on art rather than science
This has help build systems, but science work is need to quantify and better
understand the capabilities of aquaponics
A hole in the sustainable cycle of aquaponics is fish feed not local, not
Start ups looking to convert waste food to insect-based feed may provide protein
Complex technology, immature industry - growing pains I think that there largest
barrier is simply a lack of a mature industry infrastructure that new developing
technologies lack. Since commercial efforts had really only begun about 20 years
ago, the industry is far from mature.
Perhaps the biggest single disadvantage of aquaponics systems from a financial
point of view are the high fixed costs. Not only are capital costs high compared to
other systems, but basic
operating costs in particular power and a significant proportion of labour - are
also relatively inflexible and do not vary with output.
Need to quantify and better understand aquaponic systems
A lack of aquaponic journals, aquaponic funding
Currently it is difficult to compare different aquaponic methods and compare
against proper baselines
Many nave people starting aquaponics without properly understanding the
impact of economics, whether it makes system feasible or how it impacts
operations. Case studies and information would help
Aquaponics studies I have seen compare it poorly against conventional
agriculture with conventional accounting. However, conventional accounting has
problems it externalize current problems with conventional agriculture and
does not properly account for future. In a world with less water, less ameniable
weather, more soil eroion how cheap is conventional agriculture. Metrics need
to include economic/social costs and the future
There are ironically barriers to aquaponics being organic, which could make it
more economically feasible, such as organic fish feed
Regulatory systems are not use to this technology and more research-based
arguments are need to convince groups like the USDA that aquaponics is
acceptable food
Governments need to create better economic rules that internalize environment
costs we can argue with the laws of economic, but not physics and nature
To close, I would like to discuss an organization true and deep in my heart,
University of Waterloo Aquaponics. As I have graduated, I am no longer part of
it, but would like to give some exposure to my ex-colleagues.
I and a couple of other friends founded University of Waterloo Aquaponics in
2011. The team aims to research, improve, and disseminate information about
aquaponics food production to the University of Waterloo community, the region
of Waterloo and beyond.
Accomplishments include a 30 gallon flood drain system this has been used to
expose public and member to aquaponics
Public workshop giving basic aquaponics education 40 people came
Provides great example of ecology, reminder of food sustainability, basic science
concepts like pH
aquaponics has a lot of potential in a myriad of areas, be it water conservation,
better nutrition, robust food networks.
the community is really passionate, really want to make a sustainable difference
(if you pardon the pun)and has done a lot to prove the conceptual feasibility and
increase the interest in aquaponics.
aquaponic has come to a new stage, and there are new requirements as
aquaponics moves from the basement and backyards to commercial-level food
we need a system of clear and understand technical best practices, that help
members both within and outside of the community understand the capabilities,
opportunities and risks of aquaponics.
We need to support aquaponic farmers and investors with more economic case
studies, so they can properly determine what products best to produce when
and where.
Finally, we need the community needs to clearly and accurately explain the
benefits to policy makers so they can support aquaponics and start accounting the
cost of conventional food production in a more complete way.
That is why I am now looking to help move the aquaponics commercial industry and
am currently in the process of building an industry association to help achieve these
ends and I am looking for help. If want to help, learn more about aquaponics, feel
free to contact me
The closed loop cycle has been utilized in human civilization in ancient China and
Aztec empire
Modern day development began in 80s,90s
Rackoy and his aquaponics team made significant contributions. Studying
Recriculating Agriculture, they were finding ways to remove waste from the
water and became interested in using biological means to remove the waste
while creating a second crop.
They built a large scale aquaponics system quantifying the performance
Another significant research was Dr. Savidov of Alberta who looked into adapting
aquaponics into a green house system, allowing more versatility for using of