I have family members who successfully run home-based farms where they rear grasscutters, fish, and snails. Some grow oyster mushrooms too.
As the world population continues to increase rapidly, we need to find ways to grow and produce more nutritious food for ourselves through homestead farming. This is especially true for people who live in developing countries where there is barely enough food to eat.
Enter, aquaponic farming. So, what exactly is aquaponic farming?
It is a farming system that combines aquaculture (breeding of aquatic animals) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water). In this food production system, nutrient-rich aquaculture water is supplied to nourish and cultivate soil-less growing plants. This resilient agri-business which can be done on a small homestead scale, or on a large industrial scale, is a new way to provide better nutrition for millions of people around the world.
Ancient Aquaponic Cultivation
There are two opinions as to when this farming system first came to be. While some schools of thought say that aquaponics dates back to the Aztecs around 1000 AD, others attribute its beginnings to 6th-century Chinese farmers.
It is claimed that the Aztecs grew their plants on rafts placed on the lakes' surfaces. They worked out a system of artificial agricultural islands, which they called chinampas, and used the fish waste as fertilizers for their produce.
On the other hand, 6th-century Chinese farmers from South China, Indonesia and Thailand used this system to develop rice fields in water that bred fish and other aquatic animals. They also developed a system in which they raised ducks in cages set over fin-fish ponds. While the fin-fish processed the ducks’ waste, it flowed into a lower pond that bred catfish. The catfish lived on this waste. The now nutrient-rich water from the catfish pond provided the nutrients required in the rice paddies.
In 1980, Paula and Tom Speraneo implemented an aquaponic system that worked great and was ideal for smaller farming systems. They were also the first ones to successfully use gravel beds as part of the setup.
The Speraneo’s system, where they grew vegetables and herbs irrigated by nutrient-rich water obtained from tilapia fish breeding tanks, is the foundation of most of today’s aquaponic farming systems. Their system was widely recognized and respected. It is now considered the inspiration for most homestead aquaponic systems.
Solving Problems Brought on by Water Shortages
Compared to traditional fish farming methods, the aquaponic agricultural system uses 90% less water and requires substantially fewer nutrients to feed the same number of fish. This makes it much more cost-effective than the conventional way of agriculture. Today, many farms all over the world produce vegetables, herbs, and ornamental plants using aquaponics and selling their products for good profits.
Benefits of this Agricultural System as a Home-Based Project
The major benefit and beauty of aquaponics farming is its sustainability. It lets you grow plants and rear seafood simultaneously. While the fish eat and excrete waste, this natural fertilizer feeds the growing plants, which in turn help to purify the water in the fish pond/tank. Other benefits of aquaponics are listed as follows:
- The system is easy to build.
- It is simple and affordable to maintain.
- It requires no more than 50% space required for regular farming.
- Uses 90% less water.
- Plants you can cultivate include leafy vegetables, herbs, chives, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, melons, flowers, and strawberries.
- Foods you can breed include tilapia fish, catfish, shrimps, snails, and prawns.
This category of agriculture is something I discovered about a year ago. I loved the idea. The ease of its setup, maintenance, and running it. It is like having a huge fish tank (I love aquariums) that provides me with both fish and leafy greens. Considering starting a home-based outfit just for my household consumption.
For more information on these systems, check out: Aquaponics for Beginners. How to Build Your Own Aquaponic Garden.
Pros and Cons of Homestead Aquaponic Farms
- Environmentally friendly system.
- Purely organic nutrient-rich fertilizer in form of fish waste.
- Efficient use of water.
- High level of nutrient consumption.
- Very affordable. Removes the cost of fertilizers.
- Easy to maintain.
- Space efficient. Can be as small as an aquarium tank or as large as a huge greenhouse farm.
- Good source of income.
- Not many crops can be cultivated this way.
- High consumption of electricity with water pumps running 24 hours a day.
- Requires expensive professional installation.
- Due to its complexity, unexpected failures may occur.
The Potential Future Norm
Aquaponics is an interesting farming system alternative for cold-weather or hot, dry-weather nations, as well as urban centers and community farms. And although it continues to grow in popularity, its full potential is yet to be tapped.
One day, in the not-too-distant future, this farming system will become the norm, rather than the exception.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.