Water shortages in California have challenged farmers in the nation’s “salad bowl” to reduce water usage and explore less expensive and more sustainable options. One option, in particular, gaining momentum in California and across the country is aquaponics.
Aquaponics is an agriculture system that combines hydroponics and aquaculture to raise plants and fish in a closed system, using water much more efficiently than conventional agriculture while recycling more nutrients.
Here’s how it works: Inside a controlled pool or tank, the waste produced by farmed fish (or other aquatic life) is broken down by bacteria to create nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, or in the water; those plants purify the water for marine life, and the cycle continues.
With an aquaponics system, water recycles inside the structure, and very little (if any) soil is required to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, or cannabis. Several species of fish have been successfully farmed using aquaponics as well.
Across the country, farmers and novice home growers are exploring how aquaponics can improve local sustainability practices, equalize access to healthy foods, and bolster competition in agriculture markets.
J.D. Sawyer, for example, built an aquaponics system to help feed his family following the economic downturn of 2008. Sawyer has since founded Colorado Aquaponics and works with local nonprofits to bring fresh food into Denver’s low-income communities.
There are several ways to build an aquaponics system:
- Media-filled or gravel bed system – a flood and drain or continuous flow system where water from the fish tank is pumped through containers filled with small rocks or pebbles and then circulated back into the tank. This system is often used in backyards.
- Nutrient film technique (NFT) – a system of PVC pipes and mechanical filtration that allows water to flow into a thin film through a channel from the fish tank. Small leafy plants’ roots absorb the nutrients from the water. This is not suitable for larger plants due to the enclosed gutters.
- Deep water culture (DWC) or raft system – foam rafts with holes for plant roots float on a fish tank or a container/channel filled with filtered fish tank water. This is a popular method because it’s relatively inexpensive to build and maintain.
How would you like to reduce water costs and explore next-generational sustainability practices? It’s easier than ever thanks to innovative products by Americover. With an organically certifiable and fish-safe plastic liner, growers can turn just about anything into an effective aquaponics system.
Americover’s aquaponics liners are made in America and constructed with quality materials that are safe to use for food cultivation. Plus, you’ll spend less on plastic liners, because Americover liners are tear-resistant, so they’ll last for years.
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