Do you have a flat rooftop on your high rise apartment building, community center, high rise car park or school?
Do you have basic construction skills, know how to use a saw and a hammer?
Does your roof have at least 600 kilos per square metre weight loading tolerance? (This is important, water is HEAVY, although not nearly as heavy as wet soil, which contains rocks as well).
OCCUPY YOUR FLAT ROOFTOP WITH AQUAPONICS and start your aquaponic farm up there in the city where the demand for food is.
You can adapt your roof with fish tanks and hydroponic raceways that hold only water and grow far more food than any soil farm can grow on an equivalent limited space.
Do your homework properly and get permission and a community of growers together BEFORE you occupy your flat rooftop. Your flat rooftop is either the property of the person who lives beneath it or the property of the building’s owner. You don’t want your aquaponic farm thrown off your flat rooftop into the street or a court order forcing you to demolish it. Make sure your flat rooftop is really able to support the total weight of your aquaponics systems before you occupy it.
Once you have got permission, there is a lot of planning and thought that has to go into designing and costing your aquaponics systems before you occupy your flat rooftop. A lot of the information about how aquaponics works and how costing works out is here to download for free:
I have also put together an over 30 chapter collection of posts from this site about many aspects of aquaponics as ‘Aquaponics Global Anthology 1‘ which you can download instantly to print out from here:
DVD How To Build Aquaponics. Click here!
There is also a very good DVD with clear diagrams of how to plumb in the pipework of your rooftop aquaponics system:
Ornamental green walls on buildings have got quite a bit of attention recently. I was trying to get into the Queen’s Jubilee parade recently in London when I came across one of them on Park Lane, near Marble Arch.
Of course, everything growing up the building was ornamental, not edible.
It occurred to me that there are thousands of square miles of indifferently insulated external walls on high rise buildings that could be adapted fairly cheaply to growing EDIBLE aquaponic green walls. These could easily be watered in a cascade system recirculating water from the bottom to the top of the building, using waste water from fish rearing tanks on the roof and/or in the basement of the building.
All you would need would be a couple of low-wattage aquaculture pumps such as the Sweetwater range. This would take urban farming to a new level, installing aquaponic farms all over vertical and near-vertical surfaces all over the city.
Systems of suspended platforms similar to what are already used to clean windows on these buildings could be used to harvest the crops from the aquaponics green walls.
Bumper crops of vining plants such as bean varieties, including soybeans, tomatoes, peppers, melons, squash, strawberries, passionfruit, and so on could be got off these vertical surfaces. Aquaponics marries aquaculture and hydroponics, and green walls are a form of hydroponics gone vertical, which can definitely use the waste water from fish farms for nourishment for these crops.
The rooting surface would be a thick layer of coir (coconut fibre) matting stapled under a plastic mesh. The water would be piped to cascade down the building’s sides through the coir matting, to be collected in gutters at the bottom. From there it would flow using gravity to a sump to be pumped back to the fish tanks.
The usual aquaponic filtration units would stand between the fish tanks and the vertical green walls, to collect fish solids that would otherwise cause clogging and odour problems. The plants would take up the nitrates from the fish and the water would go back to the fish tanks clean, to be reused.
Vertical hoop houses could be installed to provide winter cover and extend the growing season on the edible green walls. In tropical urban farms on these vertices, winter protection would not be necessary.
Solar and wind energy could be used to power the pumps, based on the roof. This can be tied into heat pumps recycling heat from inside the building, heat going to waste from air conditioners, etc, which can be used to heat and cool water and hoop house interiors. Hoop houses can be low rise, ie vertical and only the height of the crops. They can unclip in sections from the walls to give access to the crops. The crops will be living off waste heat from the building and giving back the energy as food grown in aquaponics. The green walls will also help to stop heat from escaping or entering the building in excessive amounts. Urban farming in this way will also contribute to the total energy economy of a building.
Climbing runner bean
In this way, the thick layer of coir matting and vegetation would also help insulate the inside of the building, and balcony gardens could also be part of the system. Shade could be provided for those walking beneath as well if needed. Marginal housing estates with little level garden space could convert themselves to thriving community vertical aquaponic urban farms. Urban farming could rescue whole areas from inner city blight.
Whole city districts might eventually be mostly covered by a layer of edible food trellis gardens apart from near the street level. Because food would be produced locally for local consumption using this method of urban farming, the costs passed on to the customer to pay for food transportation from distant farms would be eliminated. Urban farming farms the food right next to the food consumer, and the consumer of this food does not have to pay high food prices with the cost of importing food included in the price.
This would completely change the character of cities and provide jobs maintaining the locally grown food supply for people who at present may not even be employed, with training and on the spot apprenticeships in vertical farming freely available to local people.
Aquaponics is a very flexible technology that can be adapted to all sorts of sites, as long as the biological balance between fish and plants in the system is correctly maintained. Plant growth in aquaponics is usually much faster than in soil, so that maximum advantage can be taken of all the space under aquaponic crops. Plant spacing is usually less as well, since plants are fed direct to the roots and do not have to stretch out root mass to find nourishment. With some crops such as basil, it is possible to grow twice as much twice as fast, and the yields go on all year without seasonal rests.
Red Tilapia ready for sale
As far as species of fish in aquaponics are concerned for this kind of scheme, it really depends on whether your building has enough waste heat available for maintaining tropical species, or not. Tropical species of edible fish such as tilapia require constant water temperatures of 20-30 degrees C. Trout and carp varieties, including ornamental koi carp, thrive best between 10-20 degrees C.
Tilapia grows from fish fry to plate size in 6-7 months, whereas most other species of fish take two years to reach a decent size. If your fish are also going to play an ornamental role and be visible to the public, this may also be a consideration when choosing a species to raise on your roof and/or in your basement. Of course, some species of tilapia such as Mozambique or red tilapia are ornamental cichlids as well as edible culinary fish. Tilapia species are robust and do well in aquaponics. I would recommend them at least to start with, as they are a bit more human error tolerant than say, trout and are less likely to die in protest if you make a few mistakes.
University of the Virgin Islands aquaponic system fish rearing tanks
The aquaponics green wall possibilities are endless. It’s really up to you.
Aquaponics, correctly constructed and managed, is an essential part of sustainable development. Aquaponics is intensive fish farming in tanks married to hydroponics in tanks. The reason that this has to be in tanks, not ponds, is that the tanks and associated plumbing and pumps allow much more intensive fish and plant production with close scientific water quality control. Also the water usage of an aquaponics system can be closely monitored and controlled to achieve water exchange rates of only 1.5%. The water exchange rate is the water that has to replaced in the system when it is filled and pumping. This compares favourably with water usage in conventional farming where the water exchange rate in an irrigated field is close to 100%.
Water loss is minimal in aquaponics, which is a recirculating aquaculture system for both fish AND commercial crops. Food yeilds per hectare can be up to four times that of conventional farming, using far less expensive inputs, with proper trained and experienced management. Little ecological footprint is involved and pollution is not generated, since all nitrates are removed by the plants in the rafts, and the water recirculated to the fish in a clean reusable condition.
As part of an arcology,aquaponics becomes a way of sustainably feeding thousands of people as a designed-in feature of the vertical self-sustaining city of the future. Water is lighter than wet soil, which means that the floating raft aquaponics system as pictured above is suitable for including in buildings without so many of the crushing weight load problems associated with raised bed soil gardens. These urban farms can also yield over a million pounds of food on 1.5 hectares, as with the documented Growing Power urban aquaponic and sustainable farm in the city of Milwaukee. A picture of the floating raft system at the University of the Virgin Islands commercial aquaponic farm is included below.
Lettuce crop in floating raft aquaponics system, UVI.
In the sustainable development of the city of the future, food security remains an urgent issue. Cities need to be unhooked from addicition to oil and gas, and the arcology requires no cars, as aquaponics requires no fertilizer or expensive pesticides and herbicides. The fish and pumps do most of the work! As a plumbing system that sustainably produces food, aquaponics can easily be included in the modern arcology. This makes the sustainable development of a city that produces its own food with few inputs from outside very easy.
The best-known proponent of arcology urban design is the designer of Arcosanti, an arcology being built in Arizona, by the famous architect, Paolo Soleri. He has developed and personally applied many of the design principles of the modern arcology. Another of his arcology designs is pictured below. There is easily space inside for a few large scale commercial aquaponics food factories and urban farms.
One of the arcologies designed by Paolo Soleri
Model of an arcology with built in farm on roof.
The tank systems for the hydroponics and the fish farm can be built in to the design for the water and waste management systems for the arcology. As part of the atria inside the city, they can also be modules in the ornamental indoor park area features, with all of the plants both ornamental and edible, as a pick as you go salad bar for the population, who also maintain the public aquaponic farms with their floating raft beds of vegetables and associated intensive fish rearing tanks, on the various levels of the building. Anaerobic digesters and wicking beds complete the picture, digesting organic waste and circulating the waste water from that as irrigation water for wicking beds that are used to grow root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, that do not do well in floating raft systems.
A diagram of a wicking bed with its piping for the flowing waste water from the anaerobic digester is below. It uses waste water from the anaerobic digesters. It also uses digested solids that have been worm composted subsequently as the growing medium, thus returning organic waste at this last stage of processing to the state of edible food. These design principles all hinge on recycling everything in the city through long cycles that safely transform organic waste back into food, water, and usable fuel.
Wicking bed-irrigation from below
Anaerobic digester power plants are also a way of recycling water from waste management systems (such as sewage collection pipes). It is important to realize that all the organic waste, whether human or animal, fish or fowl, and all the vegetable and food waste, represent proper fuel for the anaerobic digester systems that produce methane gas that can be used to fuel boilers for hot water, heating, and steam generation for electricity producing turbines. This means that the aquaponic farm is a part of a sustainable development of a city which uses its own waste organic matter to generate both food and energy. Aquaponics is a very important technology in environmental engineering.
Waste solids from the anaerobic digester power plant are safe to use since they have been ‘cooked’ by the heat generated by the digestion process. These solids can be further digested by using the worm composting method in large compost bins, and then used as the growing medium in the wicking beds, see the diagram opposite. Many root vegetables, which have a high nitrate fertilizer requirement, simply thrive in worm compost of this high quality. No digging is required in wicking beds if the upper portions are made of easily removable narrow gauge galvanized chicken wire or similar tacked to supporting posts with removable ties.
All of these technologies can basically be put on castors with wheels, and used like furniture in ‘food factory chambers’ in an arcology. Alternatively, the tanks and beds can be plumbed into the design at the outset, with all the factors calculated so that they meet the nutritional needs of the tens of thousands of people. Urban aquaponic farms and aquaponic farm parks will be a normal part of the pedestrianized environments of the near future’s new arcology urban neighbourhoods. Environmental engineering is very important in arcology design.
In an arcology, everything you need is in your part of the urban vertical stack, only within 20 minutes’ walk of where you live. There is no urban sprawl, the city extends upwards, if you need to go up a level, you walk up stairs or take the lift. You do not need a car. The urban design has done away with the need for extensive road networks. Your neighbourhood is also your job, you participate in its maintenance and grow food with your community in your own area of the building, in a farm that is also a water pumping machine.
Light for the atria is brought into the building via lightwells with reflecting mirrors. Low-energy restricted wavelength grow lights can be used on crops to increase the day length and speed of growth, fuelled by electricity which is made from organic waste from the city, its farms and restaurants. Solar collectors and wind-powered generators on the outside of the building also contribute to meeting the energy needs of the city’s inhabitants. A city a thousand feet tall generates a lot of wind.
We at Aquaponics Global Ltd are available to assist in building the commercial aquaponic farm sections of any such civil engineering and architectural design and construction contracts.
Anaerobic digester methane tank, upper portion
Aquaponics Global Anthology 1 is available for instant download and to print out here: [paiddownloads id=”1″]
Urban farming is usually associated with allotments and toolsheds, hobby farming and non-profits. But what if urban farming could be totally industrialized and still retain all the benefits of organic, sustainable farming and fresh produce?
This is where the soil-less farming method, aquaponics, comes in. Properly managed and designed, aquaponics systems can be certified organic. But don’t go to your local soil association for your organic farm certification if you are aquaponic farming. They won’t be interested. You won’t be using soil, only the waste water from your intensive fish farm.
AAAAGH! But fish farms pollute and use gallons of antibiotics, you say.
Not these fish farms. Due to the fact that the hydroponic part of an aquaponics system is full of growing plants, and that plants use nitrate compounds as fertilizer, you CANNOT use antibiotics in your aquaponics systems. If you do, your fish will all die of ammonia poisoning and your plants will die of starvation.
This is because antibiotics kill off the two different kinds of nitrifying bacteria that naturally occur in your solids removal system, and digest the fish waste ammonia into nitrate fertilizer for your plants. No bacteria, no aquaponics. Antibiotics kill bacteria.
The nitrates the bacteria make from the ammonia are what the plants use for food. As a side-effect of soaking up all those nitrates, they CLEAN THE WATER OF POLLUTANTS and it is pumped clean back to the fish to be re-used. So no water is wasted, and no pollutants need to be pumped out into the surrounding environment. Everything gets constantly recycled in aquaponics systems!
Now I can hear you muttering about pesticides, herbicides and the like. Well, to start with, there are no weeds in aquaponics systems. There is simply no place for them to grow. Plants that have not been inserted as seedlings in specially prepared plant plugs will not grow in aquaponics systems, on the whole. So you are in control, not the weeds, and you need NO HERBICIDES. If you use any of the chemical pesticides normally used in agriculture, including the so-called organic pesticides made from pyrethrum flowers, you will immediately get tons and tons of very dead fish. Since most of your fish will not be of marketable size, and also because you will not be able to sell pesticide-polluted fish, you will have to throw them out, and spend a lot of money starting over with clean water and new fish, etc. You cannot use chemical pesticides in an aquaponics system. There is no place for chemical pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers in aquaponic farming.
You don’t need artificial fertilizers in aquaponic farming because the fish waste is your fertilizer and it’s produced for free all the time as long as you feed your fish correctly.
The reason aquaponic farming is a good way to do urban farming is because it is all done in tanks. You don’t need soil. So you can base your tanks on any flat surface that can take their weight, such as a sturdy flat roof or a back lot. If you use low-energy grow lights, you can even put your aquaponic farm in a basement or a disused warehouse. This has already been done very successfully in Milwaukee in the United States by James Godsil’s Sweetwater Organics aquaponic farming enterprise, which is urban farming at its best, right smack in the middle of a big city.
He used an old railway carriage repair shed, which already had the repair pits in the floor for the mechanics to go under the railway cars. Lined with LDPE pond liner, these make excellent fish raceways for the tilapia fish and Great Lakes perch of his fish farm.
He then built wooden superstructures over the raceways of the intensive fish farm to hold the grow beds for the plants, and suspended low-energy grow lights on the undersides of the beds to light each shelf space sufficiently for plants to grow.
Urban farming and aquaponic farming have also been combined by Will Allen at Growing Power, also in Milwaukee. Using compost worms and worm tea in addition to fish water, Will Allen has managed to grow a million pounds in weight a year of food off only three acres of greenhouses right on a city street in the center of Milwaukee city. He has received many awards and international recognition for his urban farming efforts.
By piling large amounts of heat-producing fermenting compost up against his greenhouse walls, he has eliminated fuel costs for heating his greenhouses through the Arctic North American winters, and extended his growing season year-round. Urban farming need not stop in winter with aquaponics.
The extended growing seasons possible, using aquaponics in greenhouses, in urban farming in cold climates also make this even more attractive, since you can guarantee food security year-round for the local population. Fresh produce is constantly made available. Without needing to import food in the winter at vast extra expense for the consumer. Aquaponic farming in the city rocks!
Further detailed professional advice is available to hand from the following books, which apply equally to large commercial aquaponic farming enterprise plans and to backyard aquaponics for the interested amateur:
Food insecurity used to be something relegated to the Third World, places like Africa and India. No longer. Due to the economic downturn, people in Western countries like Spain and Italy, and even in poor areas of London, are finding it hard to feed themselves adequately and well.
Half the world’s population now live in cities. That’s half the people who need food security, but are miles away from where food is grown and readily available at cheap prices.
Meanwhile climate change and economic disarray are making food prices rise at hundreds of percent more than wage levels. In Western countries, not only in poor benighted Africa and so on. And food prices in the cities are going up even more, due to high shop rents and energy bills being passed on to the food consumer on the street. This is set to seriously impact food security in cities.
However, if you fly over a city like London or Rome, acres and hectares of flat roof space can be seen spreading for miles. These flat roof spaces are ideal for agricultural engineering projects such as aquaponics systems, run off the excess heat that these buildings necessarily generate anyway. Using this energy to grow food is also a way to guarantee urban food security.
Soilless agriculture of a peculiarly productive and innovative kind involving intensive fish farming married to an adapted form of hydroponics is called ‘aquaponics’. This natural ecosystem in an artificially engineered tank and piping setup can be assembled and set into motion on a flat rooftop in a matter of a week to ten days. The flat rooftop can be producing tonnages of vegetables and fish at an accellerated rate within six weeks of switching this rooftop food factory on. Agricultural engineering of this sort is easy to assemble from mostly recycled parts and does not have to cost a fortune to run, either.
Food insecurity in cities, where half the world’s population lives without access to land for growing soil-based crops, would be a thing of the past if zoning laws and city regulations were opened up to permit agricultural engineering projects such as aquaponics systems inside the city limits on waste spaces, such as flat rooftops.
The waste heat from buildings can be harnessed using heat exchanger technology to provide the power and heat needed to run pumps, water heaters, greenhouse heaters, air blowers, ventilation and lighting for rooftop greenhouses. Aquaponics is not dependent on agrichemicals from the oil and gas industry, and so is cheaper to run than its cousin hydroponics. Using recycled waste energy from the buildings it is based upon, aquaponics systems as urban farms can also save further on running costs. This can be passed on to the consumer in the form of cheaper food prices.
By growing food locally in the city where the market for it is, you also save a fortune on food transportation costs, since the food can be sold right out the back of the aquaponics systems directly to local consumers. This also means the food is extremely fresh and is consumed at the peak of its nutritional value.
Since food is produced and consumed locally in the city, it also gives back control to local people over their own food security. Food security issues also become linked to local employment issues, and such rooftop urban farming aquaponics enterprises would also provide skilled and semi-skilled jobs for local people. The agricultural engineering aspects of this business in the city would also open up agricultural engineering jobs for urban farm designers.
Food insecurity will become an increasingly obvious problem in cities worldwide, as urban populations grow in response to the despoiling of the natural environment, with its consequences for rural communities, who have lost their small farm economic base to vast agricultural combines. This is happening all over the world. With high food prices in cities, it makes sense to recycle energy and materials, which would otherwise be wasted, within the city, to grow food more cheaply on the spot, using soilless growing technologies like aquaponics locally where the food is needed.
People should work together in the cities to tackle this problem of food insecurity themselves, using the spaces and materials that are actually readily to hand. All you need is a little imagination, and the aquaponics system construction and maintenance skills necessary. These are easily acquired by anyone with a high school education and construction skills in a couple of weeks.
Food prices for food imported into the city from the countryside, or abroad, will always rise. But with a bit of ingenuity and agricultural engineering, food prices for food grown on urban aquaponic farms may well substantially undercut the food prices for food grown far away from the city, and trucked or shipped in at great expense.
To find out more detailed information about how to design and operate aquaponic farms, see the professionally expert books below, all of which I highly recommend:
Aquaponics Global Anthology 1 is available for instant download and to print out here: [paiddownloads id=”1″]
Cucumbers Growing On A Floating Raft Aquaponics System
Here at Aquaponics Global you have an independent aquaponics business consultant. If you are serious about making aquaponics your business you have come to the right place.
If you want to make aquaponics your business you will need an aquaponics business plan. Business management for aquaponics is unlike a lot of other businesses, since you are marketing and producing two different product lines, fish AND vegetables, in an aquaponics system. This means that as far as business management is concerned, you have two businesses in one, fish farming and hydroponics. A well thought out and professionally produced business plan is essential.
You therefore have to plan for these two businesses as well as the integrated fish farming and hydroponic vegetable farm which is your aquaponic system. If you are going larger than an eighth of an acre (1/16 of a hectare), you will have more than one of these systems to manage, since they are best managed and constructed as modular systems to limit the scope of disease and human error.
Hydroponic systems have the added expense of hydroponic fertilizer fluid, but you will only be using the waste water from your fish farm, which reduces expenses immediately. Also, the fish farm will not need an expensive to buy and run mechanical filtration system, which will further reduce your outlay. The plants will filter out the nitrogenous waste with considerable help from the non-mechanical clarifiers and orchard netting tanks in your commercial aquaponic systems.
You will have to work out how your market and sales will eventually pay for the installation and running expenses of your aquaponics business. Business expenses also include the wages for properly trained and experienced staff, or for training staff or sending them on adequate courses that are based on the same kind of aquaponics systems as you have installed.
Since shift patterns will be essential to cope with the demands of properly managing and overseeing your business, you may also need some on-site housing and catering facilities, bathrooms, kitchens, food preparation sheds and processing sheds, adequate refrigeration and storage, and even an alternative energy plant for producing the electricity to run your pumps, air blowers, water heaters or coolers, machinery, equipment, lighting and offices. You will need fish farming and hydroponics specialized tools and materials.
If your aquaponics business is also urban agriculture, you may have problems with city regulations, zoning laws, state regulations on what kind of fish you can use, and so on. Fish farming in the city is a new enterprise and often the rules and regs don’t quite fit.
You can also apply for all sorts of generous grants to offset the expense of setting up this sort of business, did you realize? Everything from new business start-up grants to fisheries and agriculture grants. However, once you have the paperwork for your business officially completed, it takes months on end from applying for such grants to finding out if you have actually been awarded them.
There are also all sorts of loans and other help you can get to start up your urban or suburban aquaponics business. Fish farming and hydroponics are high tech light industry as well as agriculture. We can contract to find you the funding you need.
You can of course do all this aquaponics business research and development on your own while working another job.
Or you can engage me as your independent consultant, and contract my expertise and top flight on the spot training. My business is to help you sort out all the myriad details, find you your funding, equip you for success, and oversee the first few months of operating your aquaponics business, so that things get off to a roaring start WITHOUT too many hitches and bumps.
A lot of this can be done while you are at work, or by videoconferencing with a video camera over Skype
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. I can also physically travel to the site of your new aquaponics business and hold the other end of the tape measure.
Urban agriculture is best set up with one of the few people worldwide who already have some experience of how to do it. I am one of those people. But by all means experiment! It’s up to you!
To find out more about aquaponics before getting back in touch (if you feel you need to, of course!) I recommend reading a few of the expert books below to get a feel for what you will be commiting yourself to with aquaponics:
There is growing evidence that genetically modified crops and their associated chemical herbicides are deadly toxic. At the same time, the growing urban agriculture movement with its associated technologies, such as aquaponics, is showing that you can grow massive amounts of food on limited space, with limited water, without genetically modified organisms or agrichemicals. This GM food free urban agriculture technology is making genetically modified organisms used in agriculture look obsolete. Why spend loads of money on gm food production when you can grow much more food more cheaply right next to the market for it, in the city, with urban agriculture systems such as aquaponics?
Genetically modified seed and gm food crop herbicides are the property of giant corporations who charge top dollar every time you use them. The disease resistant heirloom seeds used in aquaponics are the product of generations of selection by farmers for heavy cropping characteristics and resistance to disease. However, they cost a tiny fraction of the cost of using GM food seed. And you are allowed to save the seed of your heirloom crops, which is illegal with genetically modified seed. Genetically modified seed will not grow from saved seed in the second season, anyway. It is programmed to be sterile, i.e. it will grow from the seed your bought from the corporation, but any seed saved for a second season will probably not sprout. If you are found to have saved any seed, you are likely to be prosecuted, anyway. Remember the contract you signed when they took your order for the genetically modified seed? Did you read the small print? About no seed saving allowed?
Just find a strongly built large flat rooftop with easy access and put your aquaponics system on it. Get going with that and see the profits come in from the local buyers who are buying natural pesticide-free food straight out the back of your aquaponics urban agriculture farm, and forget about growing toxic genetically modified food.
See the video above and in the margin for the latest scary research on how the artificial rna from GM food can move from the food through your gut to your liver, and pirate your organs to start doing stuff with them more appropriate to the insides of a bacterium. Do you really want to become genetically modified yourself?
To learn how to grow your own organic food in sufficient quantities to reliably feed yourself and your family on a small area with few inputs and limited water, see the following books:
Growing cotton intensively on floating rafts in deep water culture aquaponics (in troughs 2 or 3 feet deep) should be possible. This would mean that the cotton plants could be spaced and treated much like okra, which is already grown commercially in aquaponic systems quite successfully. Okra is a close relative of the cotton plant. Growing cotton should be much like growing okra. It does not mind having its roots constantly in flowing fish water. The upper parts of the plant are separated from the water by the polystyrene floating raft, and spacing between plants is much less than in soil agriculture.
The growth rate of the cotton is also accelerated so harvests could be staggered across a commercial aquaponic farm of several aquaponics systems to keep the supply of raw cotton coming in year-round. This is growing cotton intensively all year round. Since the rafts full of growing cotton plants lift out of the deep water culture troughs very easily, the growing cotton can be harvested by hand or mechanically very easily at waist height off the polystyrene rafts placed on trestles. There is no back-breaking bending involved. The polystyrene rafts could even be fed through some specially designed mechanical harvesting machine to be cleaned and re-used afterwards in the deep water culture troughs of the commercial aquaponic systems for the next sets of seedlings.
It should not be forgotten that cotton is not just a fibre crop. Organically grown cotton also provides cotton seed which can be processed into organic cotton seed oil for cooking. The seed cake could perhaps also be reused as fish feed. The fish that are harvested from the fish farm part of the aquaponic systems can be used to help feed the workers, or sold, and vegetables can be grown in the same deep water culture troughs alongside the cotton to help feed the community.
It could even be possible to make this growing cotton scheme part of an urban agriculture project, with the cotton spinning and weaving factories next to the cotton growing farms in the city where people live and buy the fabrics right out of the end of the process along with the food grown alongside the growing cotton in the deep water culture troughs full of fish waste water. All of this produce, the growing cotton and the growing vegetables, should be able to be certified organic, which adds market value.
Of course for this aquaponic systems growing cotton scheme to work, hundreds of aquaponics systems would have to be operated. However, if the results with okra are anything to go by, much more cotton could be grown per hectare using much less water and no artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Herbicides are unnecessary since there is no space for weeds in a polystyrene floating raft full of cotton plants.
As another bonus, in the kinds of tropical and semidesert climates where growing cotton is commercially viable, it should be possible to grow Malaysian giant prawns as cleaners of algae etc. under the floating rafts in the aquaponics systems, as another product for sale.
So here you have aquaponic systems grown cotton, vegetables, fish and giant prawns. A whole set of deep water culture aquaponics systems based industries is potentially installed, in a place where there were neither the skills nor the water available to do this using more conventional methods. The quality of the certified organic cotton should not be affected, given that the quality of other crops grown in aquaponics systems has proved to be premium. Food production in aquaponics systems is of a very high quality. This remains true even though crop growth rate has been accelerated by the quality of nutrition gained from the aquaponic fish water, in the deep water culture troughs. There is no good reason not to foresee very similar results to food production when growing cotton.
Deep water culture troughs, with at least two feet of water depth under the polystyrene floating rafts, are important in hot climates to keep the roots of the crops they support cool. The deep water helps to insulate the roots from the often dessicating heat outside. The floating rafts not only suspend the plants in the water while keeping the flowers and leaves dry, but also shade the roots and help with insulating the root development space in the deep water culture troughs.
The water flows from the solids removal part of the aquaponics systems to the deep water culture troughs, and then is pumped back cleaned of nitrates by the plants, to the fish to be re-used and recycled over and over again. Growing certified organic cotton alongside fish farming in this way should be relatively easy. It may prove even easier as a form of large scale cotton growing urban agriculture feeding fabric factories and their associated communities.
The idea that cotton growing communities are self sufficient also in food production is attractive and economically sound. The fact that properly managed, all this industry can be certified organic is also a plus. However, to have aquaponics systems certified organic, you have to ensure that the certification procedures meet international standards. Certified organic fish farming is a rare skill. Urban agriculture can only succeed with trained operatives who know their onions. Commercial aquaponic systems are not just add water technology.
The price of processed cotton is at a 150 year high. The price of certified organic cotton of good quality is even higher. Then there are also the advantages associated with organic food production, alongside growing cotton. With this good prospect for return on investment in intensive cotton growing in aquaponics systems, now is the time to try this idea out for real and in sufficient quantity to make an impact on growers everywhere who are spending money unnecessarily on expensive fertilizers and pesticides. None of this inorganic chemistry is necessary when growing crops and stimulating food production in aquaponics systems. So as well as getting more harvests of cotton that can be certified organic, you are also saving money on agrichemicals. This can be factored in to the real cost advantages of commercial aquaponic systems when shelling out for installing them in the first place.
To learn more about aquaponics and aquaponics system construction and management, I highly recommend reading the following expert books written by the world’s leading authorities on the subject:
With aquaponics, sustainable urban farming reaches new heights of sophistication. As a module in the design of new cities it becomes increasingly attractive when it is realized that with aquaponics, the sustainable new cities would not need to import nearly so much material in order to feed themselves. Aquaponics, properly designed and managed, allows whole residential and commercial building complexes to recycle their organic waste within the building back into clean, safe food. Very large quantities of food can be grown this way on very small areas. No soil whatsoever is needed. The crops grow in fish farm waste water.
Of course there are intermediate organic conversion modules that separate the human waste and food waste from the human food chain for practical and hygienic reasons. Various composting methods can be used to bring human and food waste to very high temperatures for long periods of time. This eliminates the risk of human pathogens being passed on to the aquaponic urban farm stage of the recycling process. Sustainable urban farming does not have to be toxic urban farming! Aquaponic farming should be carefully managed to exclude human pathogens, which can easily contaminate the water if you are careless or inattentive.
Composting can also be used to breed insects as fish food. The main input for aquaponic farming is fish food, so it is essential to source this from sustainable sources, which are also cheaper than buying in food, when it can be grown actually in the aquaponic farming enterprise itself. Aquaponics is the marriage of intensive aquaculture (fish rearing) and intensive hydroponic vegetable and fruit cultivation, in a recirculating aquaculture process that uses a tiny proportion of the water normally required for agriculture. It is practical to re-use vegetable offcuts and insect larvae grown in various composting processes for fish feed, so that no fish food has to be bought in from outside. This also divorces the fish rearing industry in the city from dependence on commercial fish feeds using increasingly scarce and expensive ocean fish as a base.
However, in a new build city design, composting areas tied into the waste disposal system would have to be part of the integrated sustainable city design.
Methane gas is also a desirable and useful by-product of composting that can be compressed from the waste digesters and used for cooking gas, for instance. It can also be used to run boilers for steam for dynamos to produce electricity for city use.
To go back to the fish feed issue, basically insects such as soldier fly larvae have proven easy to harvest (they can be bred in a waste composting design that takes advantage of their tendency to crawl on their own into the hoppers provided) , and very nutritious and acceptable to fish such as tilapia.
Aquaponic urban farming systems could easily be established all over the flat rooftops of any city design, as long as the load bearing properties of the underlying buildings were beefed up to bear the weight of the water tanks necessary.
Aquaponic urban farms on rooftops could also double as amenities, with their own cafes and restaurants serving fresh food out of the integrated aquaponic systems designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as efficient mass food production areas.
Flowers and fruit can also be grown aquaponically, and plants such as grain amaranth, for instance, grow excellently in aquaponic systems and provide a high protein grain that requires no further processing after harvest apart from drying, as well as ornamental flowers and edible leafy greens. An inspired designer could design local rooftop parks which as well as being pleasant to use, were also aquaponic farming areas of ornamental and economic value. It is simply a matter of siting the fish tanks and aquaponic tanks and the requisite pumps and plumbing imaginatively and ergonomically. In colder climates, greenhouse structures can be integrated with the building design in the first place to include malls, leisure areas, and so on into the design.
Banana plants and papaya trees will grow in growing media based aquaponic troughs, as part of a permaculture section of the rooftop or back lot aquaponic farm.
Since you need no soil at all for aquaponics, designs for sustainable new cities based on floating structures could also house aquaponic farm parks for their populations, recycling waste back to food and drawing the little water they need from desalination plants powered by the sun, or by methane driven electric power plants from the recycling of that same organic waste matter.
This technology has the potential to revolutionize how new cities are designed and run in order to be sustainable.
To find out more about how aquaponic farming can be built in to sustainable new cities and to understand this technology better, I highly recommend reading the following aquaponics textbooks to get a more expert viewpoint on aquaponics:
Aquaponics Global Anthology 1 is available for instant download and to print out here: [paiddownloads id=”1″]
The problem with climates such as the Mediterranean or Saharan climate is severe limits on water supplies. Only so much food can be grown with very limited potable water, especially in summer, which is of course the height of the growing season, with the longest days being in summer and also unfortunately, highest temperatures.
Conventional irrigated crops use water only once. A lot of that water, even with the most sophisticated irrigation techniques, gets lost to evaporation. Bad irrigation management and bad water management generally also wastes massive amounts of water that could otherwise be used for agriculture.
The repeated application of doses of artificial fertilizers has a deteriorating effect on the soil. Fertilizer residues build up quite rapidly year on year in areas where rain is sparse or non-existent, so that salts change the soil PH and make it difficult for soil bacteria to do their job properly in breaking down nitrogenous matter and disposing of it safely. This makes it necessary to apply more and more artificial fertilizers to make up for the reduced soil bacteria activity, which reduces soil bacteria more, until eventually you are looking at a salt pan, not a soil any more.
Also, in hard water areas in the heat, irrigation lines scale up with lime-scale and have to be repeatedly checked and cleaned. This costs man hours and wages. A lot of Mediterranean areas are limestone areas with extremely hard water that does this lime-scale pipe blocking trick reliably and on time.
The cost of water in these areas goes up year on year, making farming at best a break-even activity except for landowners who can afford to put in hydroponic farms instead of the old fashioned kind.
However, hydroponic farms use artificial fertilizers too, and the problem with these, eco stories aside, is that the price of artificial fertilizers does not go down. It goes up and up. Add this to the price of water that you only use once, and soaring wage demands as the cost of living also rises, and you are on a hiding to nothing very fast indeed.
Importing food also gets very expensive to the consumer, again due to the rising price of fuel used to import the food. This fuel price gets passed on to the consumer as high staple food prices again.
Well, farm organically, locally, you say. This would be great, if you could guarantee the volume of food you need to survive as a family, a village, a town, a city, or a country. On all these scales, when you calculate the amount of food consumed plus the amount of food wasted, conventional organic soil agriculture no longer can produce the amounts needed to serve the present levels of food consumption and food waste in the Western world. Not without importing food from elsewhere as well. And using advanced food technologies that in many places are perceived as risky to health and the economy.
However, there is an advanced food production technology that produces up to 40% more food per hectare than soil agriculture. It uses less than 10% of the water normally required to grow crops conventionally, to do this. It doesn’t use genetically modified seeds or sophisticated agrichemicals. You don’t need expensive inputs like artificial fertilizer or pesticides. You can do this on any flat surface of adequate area with access to water and electricity. YOU DON’T EVEN NEED SOIL.
It’s called aquaponics. It is a form of recirculating aquaculture that grows fish and vegetables together in the same system of tanks, pumps and pipes. It’s a natural ecology living inside a food factory mechanism. If you use agrichemicals, you kill off all the crops and fish in an aquaponic system.
Crops like lettuce, properly managed, grow at up to twice the speed and half the spacing in this fish waste water fed hydroponic system. Fish water is the fertilizer, not expensive artificial nitrates. There are no toxic outfalls from the fish farm part of the system since the crops take up the waste products as food and send the water clean back to the fish to be re-used.
Most of the tank areas are shaded or covered in white-painted polystyrene rafts, that reflect back the heat onto the plants. This also means that water loss by evaporation is substantially reduced as the water is kept shaded. The main source of water loss is daily flushing out of fish solids to the fish manure making process. This lost water is fertile too. It can profitably be used on field crops. The fish manure, once dewatered, can also be used on field crops or sold on to farmers who don’t want to use artificial fertilizers.
There are other advantages to doing this, for instance, that the whole aquaponic system is mostly automated and requires no ploughing, digging, weeding, unblocking clogged irrigation lines, and so on.
But the continous harvesting procedure that you can initiate with this aquaponic form of agriculture produces premium produce at maximum speed,for less expensive inputs. THAT is what makes the money here, and THAT is what provides a solution to the above food price and food import conundrums.
What would happen if a lot more farmers adopted aquaponics as part of their growing strategy? Would it mean that we would not have to depend nearly so much on food imports and expensive chemicals for our food supply? Would it make the price of food stop increasing so rapidly?
There are of course other factors that can affect food prices, but the adoption of large-scale commercial aquaponic farming on a universal scale in countries like Spain and Morocco would certainly go a long way towards reducing food production costs over there as well. Because aquaponics uses so much less water, it would make sense for these regions to use it. The people there are also big fish eaters, which provides a ready market for the fish from the aquaponic systems when they reach marketable size. The Mediterranean sea is nearly fished out, and widespread use of fish farms to fertilize crops would take the strain off the sea and provide sustainably produced top quality fish from the land.
If clean, organic food were cheap enough to produce locally using aquaponics, in the Mediterranean and desert areas, would we do it and be able to sell it profitably, at a lower price than the chemical-soaked food we currently consume? I wonder.
For a more detailed look at how aquaponics works, and clear instruction on the practicalities of constructing and operating aquaponics systems, whether for pleasure or profit, please read the following very informative books:
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