Aquaponics; what is it?
Aquaponics dates as far back as 1500 years ago to the ancient Hawaiians and has only recently been reintroduced into the present culture. This method of growing food with fish as a food source for the plants is an ingenious way to utilize space and to take advantage of nature’s natural cycles to produce the finest quality consumables, all from your own back garden. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
I am a fourth year Herbal Science student in CIT Co. Cork, that’s where I found my interest in plants, which has grown to see the importance of plants as a food source and as a source of medicine. During my years in college I began to take an interest in Aquaria and Aquascaping, eventually this lead to Paludariums.
Now for those of you who don’t know what this is let me tell you. A Paludarium is a fish tank that is usually, but not always, one third aqua and two thirds terrestrial. So, once I found out what Aquaponics was I realized I had been doing this all along.
After this realization I began to look more into Aquaponics as a whole and found, in my opinion, that this was the most fun and spectacular way to produce food. Now, how this actually works is very simple: the fish produce ammonia as a waste by-product (toxic), this in turn is broken down by nitrogenous bacteria which transforms the ammonia into nitrites and then nitrates. The plants in turn absorb this as a nitrogen food source. This feeding cleans the water for the fish and the cycle continues.
I got to play around and even build my own systems and run my final year project on Aquaponics. This was done at the UCC School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences' (BEES) building with the help of Prof. Gavin Burnell and PhD student Daryl Gunning. The friendly environment coupled with their high tech facilities allowed me to taste a bit of the future (hopefully mine). Gavin and Daryl have given me further confidence in the application and abilities of Aquaponics and at the same time given me a stronger drive to achieve a career in Aquaponics. I would like to thank Gavin, Daryl and the UCC, School of BEES department for having me and helping me.
Aquaponics is more than an exciting way to cut you’re shopping bill down; it could be a solution to a global issue. Today on this plant there are approximately seven billion of us, that’s a lot! But nothing compared to 2030-2050 when there will be approximately 10 billion people living on this planet. Now we are running out of food and land which are major concerns because if we don’t have the land we can’t grow the food, right? Wrong. With Aquaponics you have the power to provide what you need for your family, because Aquaponics is NOT grown in soil you can grow anywhere in abandoned car parks, old landfills, derelict buildings, non-arable land, deserts etc.
The beauty about this method is anybody can do it with relative ease. To make a system for your garden is relatively cheap considering what you will receive in return. I think it is a very worthy investment.