20 Reasons To Use A Commercial Aquaponic System.

  1. Are you in greenhouse agriculture? Would you like to see the efficiency of your greenhouse be increased by hundreds of percent? By using aquaponics, among other organic growing methods, Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee, in the United States, has grown a million pounds of food off three acres (1 ½ hectares) year on year. In the freezing cold. In the winter as well as in the summer.
  2. Are you spending more and more money on artificial fertilizers and replacement composts to grow the same yields? Aquaponic farming needs no artificial fertilizers. The fish in the aquaculture part of the system produce the fertilizer for the crops with the help of a couple of different types of naturally occuring beneficial bacteria. These nitrifying bacteria come free.
  3. Are your staffing and energy bills spiralling upwards? Aquaponics is largely automated agriculture. Staffing levels for a 1/8 of an acre system that produces 5 metric tons of tilapia a year and at least that in vegetable crops, are only 3 or 4 people for the technical management and a few extra casual staff weekly to help with harvesting.
  4. What about the water bills? Aquaponics uses less than 10% of the water normally required by agriculture to produce much more food per acre/hectare than conventional agriculture.
  5. Do you have enough water to really get the maximum production out of your crops or is your area (or country) getting increasingly arid? If you need to save water, aquaponics will help you do this and increase your yields at the same time. Aquaponic techniques make sure that most of the aquaponic system water stays shaded or covered to reduce evaporation of the water. Water in aquaponics is not used just once, but constantly recycled round the system.
  6. Are you on the edge of a desert? Is soil salinification a problem? Irrigated soils gradually become loaded with salts from artificial fertilizer applications in arid climates. This makes the soil less and less fertile, and it needs more and more fertilizer to do the same job. What are you going to do when the soil eutrophicates (becomes too loaded with salts to work)? You will need to install a system that sits on the soil, but does not use it. Aquaponics does this, and does not waste water. Most of the water gets recycled round the tanks of the aquaponic system.
  7. What are your heating bills for your greenhouses if you live in an area with a frigid winter? If you run an aquaponic system, you can use the offcuts and vegetable harvest waste to make compost. In a commercial sized system, considerable waste builds up, and as compost, it heats up. By piling compost heaps against the sides of your greenhouse to the required depth for the heaps to heat up (more than 1 meter x 1 meter) you can use the compost to reduce or eliminate your greenhouse heating bills.
  8. What do you spend on pesticides? Because fish live in an aquaponic farming system, you cannot use ANY pesticides. Even ‘organic’ pesticides based on pyrethrum (a flower) kill the fish dead very rapidly. Without the fish, no fertile water for your plants can be made. You need to get hold of friendly insects such as lacewings and ladybirds, which feast on greenfly, whitefly, blackfly, and thrips. There is usually an insect predator bred commercially to get rid of most of your pests. However, bacteria such as bacillus thuringensis also are bred and sold to get rid of your caterpillars. You can use these kinds of pest control, some of which will continue to breed as long as there is a prey species to feed on and your greenhouse or outdoor tropical aquaponic system is at the right temperature. In this case, you are getting pest control for free…
  9. Do you need another product just to break even? You do not only grow vegetables and soft fruit such as strawberries in an aquaponic system. You are also growing fish, if at a slower rate. If you take proper care of your fish, you will get a premium product which can be sold as sustainably produced antibiotics-free fish. You cannot use antibiotics on your fish since they will kill the nitrifying bacteria which convert the fish waste into plant fertilizer.
  10. Do you need more space to get a profit? With aquaponics, you may not need more space. It reduces the space you need between plants by up to half the normal spacing. That means you can grow more plants in the space you have. Plants like lettuce also grow twice as fast in a floating raft aquaponic system since all stress is removed from their roots. They like to have their roots swimming in liquid fertilizer. And unlike hydroponic systems that run on chemical fertilizer, most aquaponic systems do not suffer from fungal infections and pythium outbreaks, so more of your crop will come in perfect and sell at a premium price.
  11. What happens to your waste water? Do you have problems getting rid of fertilizer runoff? If you run an intensive fish farm, what are you doing about the gunge from the mechanical filters and the sewage from the fish? In aquaponics, you run it through a simple clarifier system and then out to the hydroponic element of the aquaponic system, where the plants use up the nitrates in the water. It goes back clean to the fish to be re-used and re-fertilized.
  12. Does your back ache from bending over the crops all day? In commercial aquaponics, crops are growin in net pots in holes in floating polystyrene rafts. At harvest time, or when the plants need attention, you just lift out the floating raft in question and put it on a couple of trestle supports.
  13. What do you use to control the weeds? There are no weeds in aquaponics. There is nowhere for them to grow.
  14. How much time do you spend digging and tilling? There is no digging or tilling in aquaponics.
  15. How many crops a year are you currently getting for all that work? You can get at least 12 crops of lettuce, for instance, a year out of an aquaponic system.
  16. How reliable is your cropping schedule? An aquaponic growing trough full of floating polystyrene plants at various stages of development works just like a factory production line, with expert management, of course!
  17. How often does the weather slow down or stop production? There are no droughts or floods in an aquaponic system. In a climate controlled greenhouse, you can increase yields even more, but in the tropics aquaponics works very well and reliably, all year, outside.
  18. How easily can you change out crops if prices suddenly fail for what you are growing? In aquaponics, since your crops are on floating rafts, you can remove crops which are no longer economic and rapidly replace them with ones which are. Crops grow extremely fast in recirculated fish water.
  19. How often do soil pests such as nematodes severely impact your crops? In aquaponics, the crops are growing in fish water, not soil. No soil, no soil pests.
  20. Can you grow up to 40% more than other farmers without spending as much on inputs? In a well-run aquaponics system, you can.

Below is a very good little book by the leading expert on commercial aquaponics, Dr James Rakocy, who has put his over 30 years of experience of this technology into a clear Q & A problem solving format:

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