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growers are taking note of aquaponics for severalreasons:
Hydroponic growers view fish-manuredirrigation water as a source of organicfertilizer that enables plants to grow well.
Fish farmers view hydroponics as abiofiltration method to facilitate intensiverecirculating aquaculture.
Greenhouse growers view aquaponics as away to introduce organic hydroponic produceinto the market place, since the only fertilityinput is fish feed and all of the nutrients passthrough a biological process.
yielding twoproducts from one production unit
arenaturally appealing for niche marketing andgreen labeling.
In arid regions where water is scarce,aquaponics is an appropriate technology thatallows food production with re-used water
Aquaponics is a working model of sustainablefood production wherein plant and animalagriculture are integrated, and recycling ofnutrients and water filtration are linked.
In addition to commercial application,aquaponics has become a popular training aidon integrated bio-systems with vocationalagriculture programs and high school biologyclasses.The technology associated with aquaponics iscomplex. It requires the ability to simultaneouslymanage the production and marketing of twodifferent agricultural products. Until the 1980s,most attempts at integrated hydroponics andaquaculture had limited success. However,innovations in the 1980s and 90s havetransformed this technology into a viable modernfood production system. This publication will notattempt to summarize the production detailsassociated with aquaponics, but rather it willpoint to key innovators and published resourcesfor further information.Highlighted below are profiles of severalaquaponic greenhouses as models and examplesof commercial systems. Most of these operationscan provide technical assistance and/or offerclasses or opportunities to visit their greenhouses.Please refer to articles in the
list and to the resource listings in the bibliographyfor more complete descriptions and technicaldetails.
The North Carolina State University System
In the 1980’s Mark McMurtry (former graduatestudent) and Doug Sanders (professor) at NorthCarolina State University developed an aqua-vegeculture system based on tilapia fish tankssunken below the greenhouse floor. Effluent fromthe fish tanks was trickle-irrigated onto sand-cultured hydroponic vegetable beds located atground level. The nutrients in the irrigation waterfed tomato and cucumber crops, and the plantsand sand beds served as a biofilter. Afterdraining from the beds, the water recirculatedback into the fish tanks. The only fertility input tothe system was fish feed (32% protein).Some findings and highlights of McMurtry'sresearch:
Benefits of integrating aquaculture andvegetable production are:1.
conservation of water resources and plantnutrients2.
intensive production of fish protein3.
reduced operating costs relative to eithersystem in isolation
Water consumption in integrated systemsincluding tilapia production is less than 1% ofthat required in pond culture to produceequivalent yields.
Such low-water-use symbiotic systems areapplicable to the needs of arid or semi-aridregions where fish and fresh vegetables are inhigh demand.
Organic vine-ripened, pesticide-free produceand "fresh-daily" fish can bring premiumprices, particularly during winter months inurban areas.
Biofilters (sand beds with vegetables) that arealternately flooded and drained with nutrient-laden fish tank water are called reciprocatingbiofilters.
Reciprocating biofilters provide advantages ofuniform distribution of nutrient-laden waterwithin the filtration medium during the floodcycle and improved aeration from atmosphereexchange with each dewatering which