Fish Farms, With a Side of Greens
Sweet Water Organics, an aquaponics company in Milwaukee, raises perch and leafy green vegetables. Photo by Jeff Redmon.
Aquaponics — a combination of aquaculture, or fish cultivation, and hydroponics
By Genevieve Roberts
New York Times
September 27, 2010
In Australia, where farmers have struggled with drought for the past decade, backyard aquaponic systems have grown in popularity. Joel Malcolm, who opened the world’s first aquaponics retail store, Backyard Aquaponics, in the Australian city of Perth, sells about 300 systems a year.
“With water restrictions enforced in almost every city around the country, people just can’t have their traditional vegetable garden,” he said. “Being able to produce your own chemical-free fish and vegetables in your own backyard not only saves money but also provides enjoyment and satisfaction. Lately there have been quite a few schools installing systems here as learning tools for the kids.”
While backyard systems are in their infancy in the United States, they are growing in popularity, with estimates that there may be 800 to 1,200 aquaponics setups in American homes and yards and as many as 1,000 more in schools, according to the Aquaponics Journal.
Could this almost-waste-free food production method be the miracle solution to tackle worldwide food shortages that some expect? Brett Roe, who investigated ecologically integrated production systems at the University of Queensland in Australia, cautioned that it might not be a cure-all. “Aquaponics offers decentralized food security on a small scale, and reuse of resources,” he said. “Every little bit helps. But in developing countries it may make better sense to culture fish in ponds and use the wastewater on land-based crops; a simple linkage of aquaculture and crop farming that has the same general effect of reusing resources and can be practiced in a larger scale of economy.”