Monday, June 25, 2012


Hydroponics system of agriculture depends on controlled growing of plants providing inputs through water medium without using soil under modified atmosphere conditions. One of the advantages of hydroponics is that for each crop right growing conditions can be provided through different inputs and atmospheric environment. Variations of this system include Aeroponics and Bubbleponics and now comes theAquaponics. Fruits like water melon, cantaloupe, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, grapes can be grown under hydroponics while many vegetables are being produced using the same system which include beets, carrots, celery, tomato, broccoli, peas, beans etc. Flowering plants also can be grown though it requires more attention and care in designing the system for different flowers requiring different nutrients. Aquaponics system integrates hydroponics and aquaculture for fish production, both of which compliment each other. While the fish waste of aquaculture is a good nutrient source for plants, the water cleaned up by the plant in the hydroponics reduces the water requirement for aquaculture. Realizing the importance and relevance of aquaponics some universities are even focused courses in this new emerging area for training students. Here is a take on this interesting new development.
Aquaponics differs from hydroponics in that hydroponics relies on the addition of nutrient salts to the water to grow plants, rather than relying on the nutrients naturally occurring in fish waste. "Aquaponics is the coupling of two biological systems,"DiLoreto explained. "The plants feed off the fish and the fish purify the water for the plants -- so at the end you have two products, fish and plants. It's a much more natural process." He noted that sustainable methods are used in aquaponicgreenhouses. "You can't use most pesticides because they're toxic to fish," he said. "One needs to focus primarily on biological pest management." DiLoreto added that he believes aquaponic systems go hand-in-hand with increased interest in greener, sustainable agricultural practices and organic and locally-grown foods. Current plans for the Penn State aquaponics system include using two 300-gallon tanks to grow tilapia, and a large hydroponics area where basil, lettuce, mustard greens and micro-greens will be grown.

One is reminded of integrated agriculture being practiced in some parts of the world where crops like paddy are grown in conjunction with fish ponds for mutual benefits though there is limitations here in using fertilizers and chemical protectants. Probably fisheries can survive and prosper in paddy cultivation which requires enormous water for optimal growth. Aquaponics, as is being practiced to day, can be a boon to urban gardening and limitation of land will not be a constraint for popularizing agricultural practices. Besides in the nutrition parlor fish and vegetables are mutually reinforcing foods, bringing about radical improvements in the diets of urban dwellers. Local food sentiments can only boost the potential of aquaponics in coming years as a viable alternative to commercially grown foods ferried from across the globe at great cost to the environment.    


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