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How the hell does aquaponics actually work?

Aquaponics systems may well be a sustainable solution to future food insecurity caused by climate change, but how do they work? 1 Million Women investigates...

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 loop system.

How does it work?

Here's a graphic that explains how aquaponics systems function...

As a result of this closed loop system:

  • No fertilisers are required
  • The water is continually recycled rather than being lost in the soil
  • and no pesticides or herbicides are used

So using aquaponics means cultivating locally produced fish and plants, and provides piece of mind for customers who can be sure the food they're eating is healthy and free from chemicals.

It's more cost-effective than traditional farming techniques, and could potentially be used in developing countries to produce more environmentally and economically sustainable food.

Aquaponics has huge potential to be used by developing countries - both as commercial ventures and a way to provide food.
- says Leslie Ter Morshuizen, owner and founder of Aquaculture Innovations.‚Äč

What's more, aquaponics lends itself to flexible design, meaning that fish and plants can be produced almost anywhere, including warehouses, roof tops, even basements!

What are the weaknesses?

One concern with aquaponics systems is they're generally powered by electricity, and we all know most of our electricity still comes from the burning fossil fuels.

You can do it without electricity, if one manually removed the water from the bottom of the fish tank and emptied it into the grow beds where the hydroponic plants grow. However if we're talking about large scale farming systems as a solution to food insecurity this manual method wouldn't be viable.

What would be completely closed-loop is powering aquaponics systems with renewable sources of energy like wind or solar.

Success stories

Around the world, people are already successfully using aquaponics to grow TONNES of food each year without using a single pesticide.

Take Green Sky Growers rooftop farm in Florida, which boasts five main fish tanks containing hundreds of striped bass, perch and tilapia each and two greenhouses that together produce thousands of kilograms of food every year.

In the past few years, Australia has also seen an intense interest in urban food growing.

It's certainly exciting to see how aquaponics will grow, and hopefully how it can be completed by using renewable energy sources.


Bronte Hogarth Digital Strategy and Communications Suggest an article Send us an email