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Aquaponics Farm

What is Aquaponics Farm?

Aquaponics farm is a system where aquaponics farming is carried out. In this system, aquaculture and hydroponics are used together in a symbiotic combination. 

Types of Aquaponics Farm.

  1. Deep Water Culture: This a type of raft based growing, which uses a foam raft that is floating in a water channel filled with fishes. The raft has holes, in which the plants are placed. This method is good when growing small, fast-growing plants, which require relatively lower nutrients to grow. This method is used in large commercial-scale systems.
  2. Media-based Aquaponics: This method is the most common method of practising aquaponics. In this method, instead of soil, clay pellets are used in the media grow beds where the plants are grown. These beds are placed over the fish tank. Media-based systems are used at home and often in the garden etc. Large fruiting plants and small greens like mint etc. grown well in media-based aquaponics.
  3. Nutrient-Film Technique: This system works by flowing nutrient-rich water through a narrow trough, such as a PVC pipe. Plants are placed in the holes that are drilled on the pipes and their roots hang in freely in the water stream.  This is best for non-epiphytes; plants that require little support like strawberries and other herbs. 
  4. Vertical Aquaponics: In this setup, plants are stacked on top of each other in lower systems such as the AquaVertica. Water flows through the top of the tower. The water then falls trough or directly into the fish tank. This type of aquaponics makes the most of every inch of space provided. Leafy greens, strawberries, etc., grow well in this.

Benefits of Aquaponics Farming.

  1. No pesticide or chemical used. If any pesticide is used to cure plants, the fishes would die.
  2. Aquaponics enacts nature; it establishes a strong relationship between fishes and plants.
  3. No organic fertilizer needed to supplement the soil. The nitrate converted to ammonia by fish acts as a supplement to plant growth.
  4. Water is conserved throughout the process. Aquaponics uses 90% less water than traditional farming. Water and nutrients are continuously recycled in this complex ecosystem. 
  5. The only energy requirement in Aquaponics is electrical; to run the motor. Unlike other forms of agriculture that uses solar, wind, hydroelectric energy, aquaponics uses only electrical energy. Hence, energy is conserved.
  6. Aquaponics is done in a very limited area; every inch of the surface is utilized in growing plants.
  7. The biggest benefit of aquaponics is that both fish and plants are grown together.

Drawbacks of Aquaponics Farming.

  1. It can be a bit expensive to set up.
  2. It requires a bit of technical know-how regarding the process and science behind aquaponics.
  3. Water needs to be continuously monitored.
  4. It requires more electrical energy.
  5. Every small parts depend on each other, if one portion is hampered the entire system will fall.
  6.  Not all types of crops can be grown.

Conclusion

Despite a few loopholes, Aquaponics is the future of irrigation for some specific crops and plants. It is a sustainable method to grow plants and fishes – and both grow exceptionally well in this setup. It doesn’t harbour pests and continuously supplies nutrients to the plants. It aims at a cleaner and more technical way of farming and rearing.

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How to build an Aquaponics System?

With the advent of technology and all the modern techniques coming in, agriculture and pisciculture have come together in the form of Aquaponics. It has evolved as a modern way of cultivation and rearing which focuses on sustainability. But before we jump into how to build an aquaponics system, let’s find out what exactly is Aquaponics!

What is Aquaponics?

Aquaponics is an amalgamation of aquaculture and hydroponics; in simple terms, a system of aquaculture in which farmed fish and other aquatic animals supply nutrients through their waste products for plants grown hydroponically. The hydroponics used in this method also purifies water in return.

Aquaponics establishes a system for farming fish and plants together in a symbiotic setting. In this type of setting, one member or species benefits from the other. The fish produce waste that converts nitrates to ammonia. This waste acts as a great fertilizer for the aquatic plants being grown in the system. Unlike the plants, the fishes are harmed because of the ammonia produced by them. In return for the fertilizer, the plants keep a check on the waste products by cleaning and filtering the water that goes back to the fish. This is exactly how an aquaponic system (virtual ecosystem) works in a complex manner, maintaining harmony and symbiosis.

How to build an Aquaponics system?

An Aquaponics system is in itself self-sustaining. This system keeps reviving the soil on which the plants grow and at the same time cleans and filters the system. 

Now let’s take a look at the step-by-step method to build an aquaponics system.

Aquaponics System Parts.

  1. Fish Tank: You can either use a glass fish tank or for stricter budget, use a large barrel or a stock tank.
  • Flood Table: This is used as a bed for growing plants. The number of plants you wish to grow on it depends on its size. But, the proportion of the fish tank to the flood table should be optimum. Do not use a large fish tank for a small flood table or vice versa. 
  • Support: A strong foundation is required to support the flood table. You can use a set of concrete blocks and wood. 
  • Water Pump: Magnetic pumps are best because the motor has its separate compartment which is sealed as no oil should leak into the fish tank through it. When buying a motor, make sure to use a good quality and reliable water pump.
  • Air Pump: This is used similarly to a normal fish tank pump, i.e., to pump oxygen into the fish tank.
  • Grow Bed Media: Gravel affects the pH levels of the soil, hence, it shouldn’t be used despite being cheaper. Instead, clay pellets should be used as they are pH neutral and hold the soil moisture quite well.
  • Bell Siphon: It is easily available in the market at a cheap price. A DIY bell siphon can also be created at home using some PVC Pipes, slip caps and tubing.
  • Plumbing: This is the connecting pipes that build up the water feed line and drain line. Parts required to assemble these are – pipes, tubes, threads, and valves.

The setting up technique:

Step 1: Put the Fish Tank and pipes together.

De-chlorinate the water every 4-6 weeks. Include a pump, which allows the water to be drawn from the tank to the grow bed or flood table, and back again.

Step 2: Build Media Bed with gravel or clay pellets. Add the support to hold it together.

The media bed can be built above the fish tank or to the side of the tank. On this bed, the plants grow. Once the bed is ready, the chosen media (gravel/clay pellets) is added to it.

Step 3: Introduce fishes. 

Some preferred varieties of fishes include- Tilapia, goldfish, koi, pacu, koi, catfish, carp, barramundi, etc.

Step 4: Add the plants.

Some of the plant varieties that grow in the aquaponics are – Basil, kale, lettuce, mint, Beans, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, peppers, peas, strawberries, watercress, etc. Leafy vegetables grow best in aquaponics.

Step 5: Take care of the system.

Taking care is simple. Just feed the fish, de-chlorinate the tank every 4-6 weeks, Control the introduction of any disease in the tank, maintain the pH balance, tend the plants so that weeds don’t grow. In shorts, maintain the hygiene inside the tank.