Methods of commercial aquaponic aquaculture are in place in several countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, and Mexico. Although at a much smaller scale than standard agricultural methods, aquaponics are also being utilized to serve a number of developing countries facing climate limitations. Aquaponics methods are a growing commodity still in its infancy stages.
Aquaponic gardening has been used to produce food for centuries in several areas throughout the world to meet geographic needs including Japan, Europe, and Hawaii. Ironically, as transportation and trading resources became more accessible, aquaculture became less necessary and lost momentum. As we face dangerously low fish populations, as well as increasing environmental concerns, it begs us to consider whether we pursued the right course in our food production methods. Fish populations currently face increasing supply pressures and agriculture demands fertile land, soil, and water. These are all decreasing resources against the growing world population.
Commercial aquaponic systems have been revisited and developed and, while still in its early stages, contribute approximately one third of our fishery production today. Of the countries embracing aquaponic aquaculture, China and India are together becoming among the fastest aquaculture providers worldwide. Other countries beginning to lean toward aquaponic food production include Thailand, Japan, and the United States. Aquaponics methodology has long been in its development stages throughout the world, stemming back from as far as the Middle Ages, and, more recently, with the Japanese combining bamboo with fish breeding. It is studied in several universities who are dedicating their own resources to further aquaponic technology.
With the appropriate attention paid to developing a balanced and earth friendly aquaponic system, the result can provide an invaluable world resource. Proper consideration in the feeding of fish and species, as well as prudent care taken in developing a sound waste disposal system (a properly designed system has no waste, recycling the waste product), aquaponic methods stand to save an estimated 90% of water usage otherwise used through standard farming methods. Because water is recycled through an aquaponic system, only a small amount is needed to replace waters used through vegetable growth and evaporation. Air blowers are used to add oxygen to the water to contribute to water purity. Hydroponic lighting is often used to further enhance the quality of production of a system.
Arguably, countries that may stand to gain the most significant benefit from an aquaponic system are developing countries where climate and resources are lacking. Minimal maintenance and cost requirements of feeding, water filtration maintenance, seeding, and ultimately harvesting that create successful sustainable solutions may be managed easily by struggling communities, possibly more so than traditional hydroponics. In an aquaponic system it is estimated that one-half pound of fish may be raised per each gallon of water and vegetable capacity is found to have a shorter growth time. One reported example of successful aquaponics cites approximately 60 thousand heads of lettuce produced combined with 11,000 pounds of Tilapia in a given year.
With the global population reaching an estimated six billion people within the next 40 years it stands to reason that land and water will continue to be invaluable resources and the use of Aquaponics will be the answer to feeding the hungry of the world.