How is aquaponics a sustainable solution?
Aquaponics offers many advantages over traditional farming and fishing practices. Plus, the fish raised can be a conscientious choice for sustainably-grown protein. When considering a whole-food plant-based diet, aquaponics-grown fish can be a great aid during your journey or an occasional protein complement to a veggie-heavy meal.
Traditional agriculture uses large-scale farming equipment to manage vast expanses of fertile soil. It often requires tilling, composting, watering, and shipping in materials from outside sources. In contrast, you can put aquaponics systems just about anywhere; vertically, horizontally, on rocky soil, on sand, areas with poor water availability, small backyards, basements, and rooftops. Aquaponics sustainably gives plants everything they need in areas they can not grow otherwise.
Water and Energy Efficient
Another enormous benefit of aquaponics is water efficiency. Aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional farming because the water is recycled (abundancenc.org). This closed-loop system means less impact on the environment and less time watering your plants. Plus the energy required to run the system is electrical. This means it can run on solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric.
After the initial building phase, aquaponics needs little daily maintenance. Weeds and pests are close to non-existent within indoor aquaponics systems (researchgate.net), and there is no soil to maintain, just water chemistry. Because the plants survive on the waste naturally produced by the fish, besides feeding the fish daily, the plants need minimal care until it is time for harvest. Plus, aquaponics systems can provide vegetables and fish year-round, two sources of income, beating out traditional farming which is usually only one stream of income and seasonal.
Furthermore, aquaponics systems produce little waste products. Extra fish waste is nutritious fertilizer for soil-based plants and damaged plants compost easily or provide innovative fish feed. Fish are also efficient at reducing waste themselves. This is because they do not have to regulate their body temperature or compete with gravity allowing them to convert a majority of what they eat into biomass rather than heat (iopscience.iop.org). As a bonus, the plants in the aquaponics system grow quicker and denser producing higher yields than traditional farming (ijsrit.com).
On average, your food travels 1,500 miles to your grocery store (cuesa.org). By eating food grown in an aquaponics system, you can grow the vegetables and fish in your house or backyard dropping this number to 0. This reduces the carbon footprint of your diet, which in turn helps preserve the environment. On top of this, you know exactly where your food has come from and the practices used to grow it. Fewer food miles also means fresher food packed with more nutrition and flavor making your meals more colorful and healthy.
Traditional farms use fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to manage any species they view as pests. These harsh chemicals often make their way onto and into the plants and animals, and the local watershed further killing wildlife and poisoning our waters (dnr.wisconsin.gov). In aquaponics, these harsh chemicals would kill the fish. So instead of artificial fertilizer, aquaponics mimics nature and uses the fish waste to provide nutrition to the plants. Many aquaponics farms also avoid growth hormones, antibiotics, and other synthetic substances too.