Finding sustainable solutions for food production is crucial in a world dealing with issues like population expansion, resource scarcity, and environmental deterioration. Parallel to that, the demand for seafood is increasing along with the growth of the world’s population, which puts tremendous strain on the oceans and natural fish stocks that have been a core source of protein for many cultures centuries back. Fish populations have been experiencing significant decreases as a result of unsustainable fishing methods, pollution, and habitat damage. The long-term health and availability of fish resources depend heavily on the adoption of sustainable alternatives, such as aquaculture systems that put ecological balance, minimal environmental impact, and ethical fish feed procurement first.
Aquaponics, a core concept of INCiTiS-FOOD, is a dynamic and environmentally friendly food production strategy that combines hydroponic plant cultivation (growing plants without the use of soil) with aquaculture (fish farming). Along with the potential for year-round, high-yield food cultivation, this system offers environmental benefits along with social ones to communities.
In this blog post, we explore different aquaponics systems and look into their key characteristics, benefits, and the bright future they offer for the production of sustainable food.
Media-based aquaponics is one of the most popular and versatile systems. It makes use of a grow bed that is filled with a stable growing media, like gravel, clay pellets, or expanded clay balls. The fish tank’s nutrient-rich water is cycled through the grow bed, feeding the plants as they are growing in the media. The media also functions as a biofilter, housing helpful bacteria that transform fish waste into nutrients that plants can use.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) Aquaponics
In NFT aquaponics, the plants’ roots are continuously covered with a thin layer of nutrient-rich water, enabling the plants to absorb the needed nutrients. In this system type, water is pumped from the fish tank into a sloping trough, where gravity maintains a steady flow over the roots of the plants. The cycle is finished when the extra water is poured back into the fish tank. Due to their shallow root systems, leafy greens and plants frequently use NFT systems.
Deep Water Culture (DWC) Aquaponics
Plant roots are submerged directly into the nutrient-rich water in DWC aquaponics, generally in the form of floating rafts or net pots. Through the exposure of their roots to the water, the plants gain oxygen, and the nutrient-rich water aids in their growth. DWC systems are well-known for being straightforward and suitable for a variety of plants. They are especially effective for growing larger plants with deep roots, including tomatoes and cucumbers.
Dutch Bucket Aquaponics System
Although it can be used to grow any crop, the Dutch bucket system is a production technique that is most often used to grow vining vegetables. By flooding from below or by allowing nutrient water to enter the bucket and drip through a medium encasing the plant roots. As water flows by the root system, the plants take up the nutrients. The bucket’s bottom contains a drain through which water can be removed. Even under continuous flow circumstances, the plant root systems maintain their aeration since water does not collect and fill the bucket.
The key concept behind this growing system is the use of vertical towers or several grow beds to enhance the use of available space. Such systems are best suited for urban living areas or areas with low available growing space. Utilising vertical space allows for the cultivation of more plants with a smaller footprint. This system is not per se unique in its way of growing, as NFT or DWC are frequently used in vertical aquaponics systems to provide effective water and nutrient delivery to all levels, but rather the uniqueness lies in the adaptability of space constraints.
Through this blog post, we have given brief descriptions and key characteristics of common aquaponics systems allowing easy understanding in the search for the best type based on the needs and goals of productions. By adopting versatile systems we are able to drive sustainability forward.