The environmental issues surrounding conventional agriculture are well known. According to http://savetherainforest.org, 60% of rainforest loss is due to landless farmers going in to farm along new roads opened up by loggers in the jungle. This is because their land has been taken over by large concerns to grow crops for export such as soybeans, and also due to population growth in these areas.
There are other tales of soil destruction due to land overuse, which creates dustbowls, and due to the use of substances such as herbicides containing glyphosate, which destroy soil bacteria and distort soil structure in the long term. For more about this go to the interviews with Dr. Huber of Purdue University, on http://mercola.fileburst.com/PDF/ExpertInterviewTranscripts/InterviewDonHuber-Part2.pdf, which is a transcript of the second part of an interview with him on mercola.com, the website of the world-famous Doctor Mercola. Wikipedia also has scary entries about this substance if you look it up.
In between desperate farmers and the chemical assault on our soil and environment, which may well be causing other problems such as the disappearance of the bees, without which many crops will not fruit, conventional agriculture is reaching a state where the law of diminishing returns comes into play.
These environmental issues have spawned a rise in the adoption of organic farming, but the question here is that it is vulnerable to the very diseases and blights that are dealt with by the chemical barrage used by conventional agriculture. As such, it may well not be able to produce enough food if universally adopted. It also takes up as much if not more space on the soil as conventional agriculture and is just as water-hungry.
The next environmental issues, to do with water use in agriculture, are also key. Worldwide, we are running out of potable water at an alarming rate. These environmental issues are caused by the fact that for the most part, water is used only once in conventional agriculture, then discarded. It is hardly ever recycled since it is used to carry away waste and for cleaning, also for irrigation, which consumes whole rivers and lakes. Due mostly to irrigation, the River Jordan in Israel no longer flows into the Dead Sea. Many other bodies of water such as the Aral Sea have all but disappeared. ‘Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size’-Wikipedia.
Lake Chad in West Africa is also rapidly disappearing.
The north of China is also rapidly running out of water. It has already used up most of its fossil water resources, the underground aquifers that cannot be replenished by rain. I enclose a scholarly presentation about this vast problem:
However, in the midst of all this disarray, and a tide of misinformation from vested agricultural interests bent on selling more toxic chemicals and genetically modified organisms, purported to make conventional agriculture more efficient at vast expense, there are other less well known technologies which do not require any of these complexities to work, and once installed, are vastly cheaper and less water-hungry to run.
These technologies are all based on recycling water, instead of using it just once. Recirculating aquaculture (sustainable fish farming) has spawned an offshoot called aquaponics, where plants are grown hydroponically in the waste water from the fish. This waste water is cleaned by the plants, which absorb the nitrates dissolved in it and use them for exponentially faster growth than normally seen in conventional agriculture. This deals with several environmental issues at the same time.
These environmental issues can be listed as follows:
- Water is constantly recycled, and used again and again by the fish and the plants. Less than 10% of the water used by conventional agriculture normally to grow food is required. Evaporation is controlled by covering most of the water surface with floating rafts that suspend the plants in the fish water, and shading the fish tanks. These can also be provided with lids in some situations.
- Water pollution from fish waste released into the environment is eliminated completely. Removed fish waste solids are dewatered and used as organic fertilizer after composting. The water from this process is fertile and can be used for irrigation. Still 90% less water or less than conventional agriculture uses, is required to keep the aquaponics system going.
- Toxic herbicides are unnecessary since there are no weeds to pull. Only biological non-toxic pest control methods can be used, since all pesticides, even the so-called ‘organic’ pesticides based on the pyrethrum flower, kill all the fish dead fast. The chemical assault normal with conventional agriculture is stopped.
- Artificial fertilizers are not necessary or used. The fish water provides ample nitrogenous matter which is turned by naturally occurring bacteria in the aquaponics system, into nitrates that fertilize the plants in the aquaponics system’s hydroponic component. The expense of buying in artificial fertilizers is avoided, and the pollution of fertilizer over-use, stopped.
- The space used is around half what would be necessary to grow food using conventional agriculture. This means that you can grow up to twice as much food on any given acreage than would be possible using conventional agriculture. This does not even count in the harvests of fish that will be produced. Due to the efficiency of hydroponic growing methods, plants can be spaced at up to half the spacing normally required in conventional agriculture. They also grow at up to twice the normal speed for plants grown in soil. So you get up to twice as many plants, twice as quickly. This is all dependent on the types of crops grown, but lettuce and basil can be managed professionally to grow at these rates, for instance, quite easily. This has revolutionary implications for land-starved farming communities, especially since no soil is needed, so any flat surface can be used to grow food. You can even grow food on a flat roof surface, in the city.
- Fish can be grown intensively on land with very little ecological footprint. The biofilter is the aquaponic system, so none of the notorious water pollution normal with intensive fish farming on its own is caused. This means that there is a possibility of reducing the pressure on ocean fish populations which is steadily wiping them out at present. 1/8 of an acre of aquaponics can rear 5 metric tons of tilapia fish a year, for instance.
In places like South America, West Africa and China, the wholesale adoption of this technology could spare the countries in these places further environmental issues, drought, poverty and desperation. However, there are only a limited number of trained and available independent consultants such as myself who are willing to undertake the consultancies necessary to set up demonstration aquaponics systems.
» Get Skype, call free! I can be contacted for preliminary discussions via Skype for free.
These aquaponics systems should be set up professionally on a large enough scale to show how aquaponics can replace the methods of conventional agriculture. Farmers can then be taught how to produce more food using 90% less space and water, and 17% of the energy currently used in conventional agriculture. They will learn that they need far fewer and far less costly inputs to do this than currently used in conventional agriculture. These inputs mostly consist of fish feed. Aquaponics uses only non-toxic pest control and needs no herbicides. If you liked this article, I have edited the past 6 months of this website’s posts into an ebook to download on the spot which is available here for only $10: [paiddownloads id=”1″]
To learn more about how aquaponics works, and how to make it work for you, I suggest you read a few of these books from the world’s leading experts on aquaponics and aquaculture: