Aquaponics – a biological dance of fish and plants

Practical and sustainable way to grow vegetables for your hotel

Aquaponics is today’s most sustainable form of agriculture on the planet. It has its roots from the Aztec Indians, 1000 AD. Today, aquaponics systems are scientifically proven applications that are in use on a household, community as well as commercial level. This way of growing aquaponically provides many people with an independent and sustainable resource of organic food.

The perfect ecosystem

Two main components are the fish tank and the grow beds  – a pump between the two circulates the water. The fish produce wastewater and the plants clean the water. One way of aquaponics is to have the fish/water tank separated from the grow bed and the other one is to have an integrated system of the fish/water tank and plants in one system. The food grows in a concentrated yet sustainable manner.

The key to a successful aquaponics system is the constant health of three living elements that are dependent on each other for survival: the fish, the plants and the bacteria. The bacteria consume the toxic fish ‘waste’ such as ammonia and make the nutrients bio-available for plants. In turn, plants keep water clean for the fish by removing the nutrients. It is a perfect cycle and a closed system that needs very little water after the first input. The only resources the system needs are fish food and seeds as well as electricity. Solar panels can be provide this, which makes the system almost free to run.

The benefits of the closed loop growing cycle

Aquaponics is the most sustainable form of agriculture and is especially beneficial in areas with high temperatures, a lot of sun and little water, as the water is reused all the time and in urban areas where space and access to soil is limited. Aquaponics is a new way of rejuvenating community as these systems can be built in empty spaces including old warehouses, disused public properties, etc. They can become a new community plazas, hubs of innovation where people exchange their skills and maximise their shared resources.

The systems are highly energy efficient given that they use 95% less water than traditional vegetable growing. And as a fish tank doubles up as a vegetable garden, they are also some of the most ergonomic systems that use less space and energy than traditional methods of growing.  High yields with a vast variety of vegetables and fruit can be achieved with Aquaponics because of incessant, year round harvests that are possible with larger, commercial systems in order to meet market demand. Greens, herbs and superfoods sought out by high-end restaurants and health conscious eaters as well as tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers, squashes and even melons and many more crops are produced. Aquaponically grown vegetables are 100% organic, with no need for fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides that are harmful to us and the environment

The system works in almost every environment as the Aquaponics can be adjusted, with a heating or cooling system – the type of fish can be selected to the temperature of the water, too.

These systems are predicted to become the most viable alternative to our current energy intensive industrial systems of meat and grain production. 

With the conversion rate of grain to meat ranging from about 7:1 for pork, to about 5:1 for cattle and 3:1 for chicken, the 1:1 ratio of aquaponics system seem an attractive and viable alternative. And whilst these systems alone cannot replace other meat production systems, they can certainly reduce the pressure on our land and energy resources and bring sustainability to our consumption. 

The aquaponics systems are gaining popularity and could be an interesting investment for hotels trying to grow their vegetables to produce high quality food or the ecological way to breed fish while remaining sustainable.