According to FAO, aquaponics systems are made out of units that can come in many different shapes and sizes. From small devices on kitchen benches with goldfish and herbs, to larger systems growing silver perch fish and lettuce.
On an industrial scale, more complex units can also produce tonnes of fish and thousands of plants per month.
Managing an Aquaponics System
Aquaponics is a sustainable method of growing vegetables and other plants. It mimics nature as the plant “kingdom” reuses the leftovers from the animal kingdom (fish) to close a circular loop. However, achieving the system’s balance, maintaining it, and securing optimal conditions for the fish and plans means a close control of different parameters.
The main production parameters which need to be perfectly set to meet the optimal needs of plants and fish are:
- Air temperature;
- Water temperature;
- The concentration of macro and micronutrients
- Dissolved oxygen in air and water – which depends on the filtration method used;
- CO2 concentrations in air and in the water;
The more “perfect” these parameters are, the higher is the system’s productivity. Paying attention to these details can help prevent insects, diseases and other types of pollution. Moreover, maintaining an appropriate balance between fish waste and vegetable nutrient demand, while ensuring an adequate surface area to grow a bacterial colony in order to convert all the fish wastes.
Potential Uses of Aquaponics
According to FAO, aquaponics systems are made out of units that can come in many different shapes and sizes. From small devices on kitchen benches with goldfish and herbs, to larger systems growing silver perch fish and lettuce. On an industrial scale, more complex units can also produce tonnes of fish and thousands of plants per month.
Current Applications of Aquaponics:
- Domestic or Small-Scale Aquaponics System
This is a fish tank of around 1000 liters and a 3m2 growing space, ideal for domestic production.
- Semi-Commercial and Commercial Aquaponics
This means looking at an aquaponics system from a perspective in which there aren’t many players in the market yet due to large start-up costs.
Small aquaponics units are being used in educational sites as a way to bridge the gap between the general public and sustainable agriculture techniques.
- Humanitarian Relief and Food Security Interventions
As aquaponics systems work anywhere in the world, they can be used as pilots in developing countries to meet the food security needs of local people
Design of Aquaponic Units
Worldwide, Thorarinsdottir says there are three main aquaponics systems being used: media beds, floating rafts or deep water culture (DWC), and nutrient film technique (NFT). The media beds utilize various substrates in an “ebb and flow” process while in the NFT (in a thin layer of water) and raft/DWC systems (floating rafts in large water tanks) the plant roots grow directly into the water.