Aquaponics, just keep swimming or get back on land?

We have seen that Urban agriculture is trying to give the best and most of food and crops to people with limited resources in urban areas. Usually incorporating trays and raised beds for planting crops. We have been well aware of limited spacing being a factor to plan out crop production and spacing but what if soil wasn’t a factor? What if using aquaponics is using water to grow plants without the use of soil in urban agriculture was a more viable and more practical than a setting with soil? We will explore this.

            A little bit of background on what aquaponics is, according to the Article Aquaponics in urban agriculture: social acceptance and urban food planning they describe it as ‘Aquaponics combines two widely known technologies, recirculating aquaculture and hydroponics (Pollard, Ward, & Koth, 2017). Now what are these two methods? Well recirculating aquaculture systems are systems one would use at home for a fish tank they filter out undesirable ammonia toxicity and keep a healthy environment for fish to live. Now hydroponics is the type of horticulture based on growing plants without the use or need of traditional soil. Now let us try to understand this idea. A fish is a living creature just like you, a plant, and me we all need proper nutrients and a clean environment to live. We also need to be sure our nutrients are proper and not contaminated as well and that is where the recirculating aquaculture system takes its place by filtering out undesirable waster from you guessed it, fish. Fish in the system eat and cause bio waste, now this bio waste is filtered in the system and the nutrient rich water runs through a drip irrigation system into the roots not the actual food we humans will eat removing contact to the main plant and just roots.

            Now this sounds great but why should we consider this method of growing in Urban agriculture? Well the urban population has surpassed the rural population (Laidlaw & Magee, 2016) and the creation of readily available fresh produce will be a luxury and a cost-effective way of feeding people for the future no longer having to haul massive quantities and cutting out expenses. The need to create a sustainable approach of a urban agriculture system is an incredibly important task for the present to carry us to the future of agriculture. What better way to help the continuation of innovation of the oldest profession than cut out agricultures oldest friend and enemy, soil. Soil can be a tricky element in agriculture to work with and its maintenance needs to be delicate and accurate for the best results. Soil also harbors the possibility of nutrient deficiencies and toxicity that can destroy crops. In an aquaponic system in an urban environment we do not need to worry as much due to technology taking on the heavy lifting such as temperature control and water analysis for best water/ plant nutrients in a system. The part that has been most studied is the best mix of vegetables and fish that mix well with what filters in a system for best results (Pollard, Ward, & Koth, 2017).

            The problem with installing an aquaponic production system in the mainstream is the current lack knowledge of optimal use. As of 2017 it is not well known what communities, markets, or people it will serve best and as consequence according to the article Aquaponics in Urban Agriculture: Social Acceptance and Urban Food Planning, “The participants, as people already heavily involved in urban food production, education, distribution, or business planning at many levels, were mostly unfamiliar with aquaponics. Thus, it is likely that the majority of people less involved will be even less aware of this technology”. What was also said is they asked for greater understanding of these systems including a better understanding of the business aspect of the production system.

            Currently to the understanding of the topic it seems like both are systems that work. Though they work one is less understood and needs to be studied further for better explanations to future urban agriculture producers so that we can see truly which of the two work best and for what reasons either one is best suited for.

Works cited

Laidlaw, J., & Magee, L. (2016). Towards urban food sovereignty: the trials and tribulations of of community-based aquaponics enterprises in Milwaukee and melbourne. Local Environment, 573-590.

Pollard, G., Ward, J. D., & Koth, B. (2017). Aquaponics in Urban Agriculture: social Acceptance and Urban Food Planning. Horticulture.

2 thoughts on “Aquaponics, just keep swimming or get back on land?

  1. Some key points were missed about aquaponics. Aquaponics uses up to 90% less water and 90% less physical space to grow 10 times as much plant material in the same area as conventional farming practices without the risk of run-off, nitrogen infiltrating the watertable, and the drastic reduction in need for synthetic chemical treatments as part of an IPM program. These are huge motivations for using this farming method.

    There is a booming aquaponics industry in areas outside of California, such as Florida, Michigan and Texas. This is partly because these areas do not have the climate or soil conditions that California is naturally blessed with. Aquaponics levels the playing field for places that do not get Mediterranean climate and alluvial soil profiles naturally and in abundance. While urban agriculture can certainly benefit from it in California, it is outside of California where land value is not as drastic of an obstacle in operational costs.

    While I was excited to read an article on aquaponics, it feels like it is lacking a truer understanding of how it works. I wasn’t prepared to be this critical going into the article and I want to end on a good note and highlight something I did enjoy about it. The article is correct that there is no mainstream data or resources for system optimization. I think the article could have been improved greatly by talking about why this is a factor. Such as, this lack of data is due to the versatility of system designs. Hydroponic systems like DWC, NFT, and/or media beds can be paired with tilapia, salmon, carp or crustaceans aquaculture systems and can be setup in a “chop and flip”, “split flow”, “CHOP”, or “CHOP 2” irrigation system. Then there is a distinct formula for population ratios based on commercial or enthusiast (backyard) operational outcomes.


  2. Searcher/ Synthesizer
    Aquaponics can be a taboo subject, in regard to its lack of popularity. Since some cities can be considered “smart cities,” they would be able to understand and educate themselves about aquaponics, how it works, and how it can help the immediate surrounding society. If some cities are inclined to use aquaponics alongside or in place of their current urban agricultural spaces, then there will be a greater amount of experience and information flowing from them. Cities are becoming “smarter” in a sense and will be able to detect the difference in ammonia levels, contaminants, and increased/ decreased yields (Dos Santos). By placing various aquaponic systems around the country, or world rather, “the lack of quantitative research to support the development of economically feasible aquaponics systems” (Goddek et al., 2005), can increase the chances of other cities to implement these new agriculture systems. These systems would be placed in the cities where they are food-insecure and shorten the length of time it takes for the food to get to them. The food that is delivered to the surround stores of food-insecure cities are mainly liquor or fast-food stores, so to have fresher and more nutritious food readily available can help the immediately surrounding residents.

    Dos Santos, M. Smart Cities and urban areas- Aquaponics as innovative urban agriculture. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. December 2016. 20 (1). pp. 402-406.
    S. Goddek, B. Delaide, U. Mankasingh, K.V. Ragnarsdottir, H. Jijakli, R. Thorarinsdottir
    Challenges of sustainable and commercial aquaponics
    Sustainability, 7 (4) (2015), pp. 4199-4224


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