What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the marriage between aquaculture and hydroponics. Essentially it is a “clean and green” method of growing fish and plants together in a closed system. The fish are reared in tanks and their water is pumped to the plants that are growing in soiless conditions. The plants take up the waste produced by fish for growth and the water is returned to the fish. The two systems actually benefit from each other.
As a result no fertilizers are required, the water is continually recycled rather than being lost in the soil and no pesticides or herbicides are used. The outcome is locally produced fish and plants that will give the customer the piece of mind that the food they are eating is healthy, free from pesticides and herbicides and – importantly in our changing world – has been produced using minimal amounts of fossil fuels.
What’s more, aquaponics offers one more magic ingredient – flexibility of design. This means that fish and plants can be produced almost anywhere, including warehouses, roof tops, basements and brownfield sites. A system has even been proposed in Antarctica.
Why is aquaponics so important?
On 7 March the British Aquaponic Association CIC (BAQUA) hosted its annual aquaponic conference at Bicton EaRTH, an educational farm that aims to operate without dependence on fossil fuels. BAQUA’s conference brought the pioneers of a fledging UK industry together with the aim of building an open, united and profitable industry.
The first speaker – Kevin Frediani, the head of sustainable land use at Bicton College – opened the conference by highlighting the changing world we live in; a world with a booming global population, declining resources and increasingly demanding diets. “How do we feed future populations?” was the question he concluded his speech with.
The speakers that followed provided a solution; aquaponics. The audience heard how Jimmie Hepburn’s Aquavision is a profitable aquaponic industry that plays an important part in the UK’s economy. Nick Stinton from Cefas talked about water quality and how the industry can work together to produce healthy fish. GrowUp is a company that produces fish and plants in containers in central London. Evidence that aquaponics simultaneously ticks both food sustainability and social responsibility boxes was illustrated by presentations given by the Bristol Fish Project and South West Ponds. And Philip Jones from Byspokes, a nonprofit organization spoke about its successful aquaponic development projects in the arid land in Palestine.
What does the aquaponic industry require?
BAQUA is determined to be the champion for this emerging industry and its members. Part of BAQUA’s ethos is to drive this industry so that it can play its part in ensuring a future legacy, which echos its own strap line: “Sustainable Food For A Sustainable Future”. However, as aquaponics is a relatively new industry it requires both government and financial support. After all aquaponics is a method of sustainable food production that will benefit the whole world.