The phenomenon of combining farming of edible plants and edible aquatic organisms is not a new idea. It is rumored to have started in 1000 AD when the Aztecs started to grow some of their crops on rafts on fish lakes. Then the Chinese combined rice paddies and fish farming. The contemporary concept of Aquaponics is about the same, but with more variety and complexity.
Today, Aquaponic professionals are focusing on the future - combining recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) with hydroponic plant growth systems.
In a RAS systems, aquatic organisms like fish and crayfish are farmed. In hydroponic systems, crops are grown with the roots in direct contact with a liquid nutrient solution. Both systems aim to work in a recirculating way. And as you might have guessed, there are interesting benefits in combining these two systems.
The advantage of combining these systems is to improve the efficiency of basic inputs and output. The main idea is that waste from the aquaculture, that would otherwise be expelled from the system, is kept and used as nutrients for the crops. Due to this, most of the inputs are consumed resulting in a low amount of waste. This provides the possibility of creating efficient closed systems, leading to valuable advantages for growers.
There are other possible benefits with keeping a closed system. It decreases problems like crop fungus, virus and bacteria. This means growers can avoid the use of pesticides. Compared to aquaculture systems, aquaponic systems have the potential to decrease the risk of flushing nutrient waste into nature, and instead transform that waste into valuable crop biomass.
Aquaponics is also positive from an ecological standpoint. It decreases water consumption as well as prevents nutrient waste flushed into our seas, the latter of which can increase algae blooms. Further, using an aquaponic system allows growers to diversify their income by supplying both food crops and fish to consumers.
Controllable LED Grow Lights have valuable benefits to Aquaponics. Two interesting examples of this:
1) The absence of infrared light in LEDs can lower the risk of dehydration in the crop, and
2) Certain blue wavelengths have the potential to prevent pests like aphids or spider mites to multiply. Heliospectra’s LED grow lights give growers full control over the light spectrum, intensity, and duration. This gives growers the possibility to set their own light recipes including options like increased blue light.
While aquaponic systems can bring many potential benefits, it is still early in its commercial development. Commercial aquaponic systems are complex environmental systems that can be costly to run. They demand sophisticated technology (which in some cases has not yet been developed) to become economically viable. Deep knowledge exists around hydroponics and aquaculture independently. But the combination of the two is, with a few exceptions, still relatively undeveloped.
Today, the main profit drivers for Aquaponic farmers is more correlated to water savings and space efficiency in vertical aquaponic systems, which allows growers to stack the systems on top of each other. But as the systems progress, more and more benefits can be realized. Thus, we recommend all growers interested in crossing over to Aquaponics to do their research well.
Have you tried growing with Aquaponics and LED Grow Lights? If you have experience using these methods, please share with other readers in the comments section below