Published on May 16th, 2011 | by Glenn Meyers


Aquaponics a Sustainable Food Alternative

May 16th, 2011 by  

Growing food by using aquaponics is growing in popularity. Source:

With food prices rising and access to water and land limited in many parts of the world, many are looking at food production alternatives, one of them called aquaponics.

While the term, aquaponics, may sound alien, the practice is beginning to grab the attention of many who see it as one sustainable agricultural solution for an increasingly crowded planet.  This is especially true for poverty stricken countries.

Georgia author Bevan Suits has written an attractive and informative e-book about the topic, “The Aquaponics Guidebook, Access to Personal Agriculture.” This book opens the world of aquaponics in a practical way, says Suits, “so you can learn about it quickly and get started, no matter your experience, budget or available space. Even beginners on a small scale will see amazing results. Greens like lettuce or basil can grow to harvest in four weeks.”

Colorado aquaponics pioneer Wayne Dorband, founder of World Wide Aquaculture, grows harvests vegetables, herbs and fish in the many testing tanks he has established in the low light settings at his company warehouse in Loveland, Colorado. He points out that this method of growing food is innovative, inexpensive, pleasant to look at, and sustainable. Both he and Suits believe families can use these compact systems worldwide, producing fish and vegetables to feed individuals on an ongoing basis.

A viable aquaponics system combines traditional agriculture and aquaculture methods without soil. In short order the system produces a healthy culture for fish, herbs, fruits, vegetables and ornamentals to thrive. The only additional material required is water.  Fish are fed some of the plants growing in the system, and their waste fertilizes the plants.

“There is no need for additional fertilizer, weed killers or outside food if the system is properly designed,” says Dorband, pulling a trout filet from his freezer that required four months to mature.

According to Dorband, the simplest of Mountain Sky’s aquaponics system can be purchased and installed for less than $100. The components used in Dorband’s aquaponics systems come from recycled materials such as 55-gallon drums otherwise destined for landfills, PVC pipes, pumps and washed gravel. No special water is required, as the plants purify local, well, or pond water.

In this You Tube video, Travis Hughey, founder of Barrel-Ponics, features a system where plants grow without soil, fed by fish waste, and where fish feed on water plants for nutrition. This three-minute video, although somewhat arduous, shows how the system works and is worth the time.

For those who wish to learn more about innovative and sustainable aquaponics systems, these sites are worth visiting:

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • Michael Holding

    That’s an nice solution given here for the alternative of sustainable food is aquaponics,I thinks it should be widely used so that it can also gain some momentum.Thanks for such a nice post.

    Genetic ID

  • jaffa jefda

    Plants are grown as in hydroponics systems, with their roots immersed in the nutrient rich effluent water. This enables them to filter out the ammonia that is toxic to the aquatic animals, or its metabolites. After the water has passed through the hydroponic subsystem, it is cleaned and oxygenated, and can return to the aquaculture vessels. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    This one is truly awesome post. As the post really unveils the best of information about Aquaponics. And the existing regarding information of this post really drives me one crazy way about it. Thanks for sharing some exceptional and incredible thing about Aquaponics.

    Hydroponics vs Soil

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Excellent post. The Aquaponics will certainly a
    boon in developing countries.

    There is another technique
    HYDROPONICS. In 70s there was big push for Hydroponics in developing countries
    which subsequently slowed down (almost vanished) but practiced still in
    advanced countries.

    Soilless culture

    Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient
    solutions, in water, without soil.
    Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral
    nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite,
    mineral wool,
    or coconut husk.

    Researchers discovered in the
    18th century that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. In natural
    conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is
    not essential to plant growth. When the mineral nutrients in the soil dissolve
    in water, plant roots are able to absorb them. When the required mineral
    nutrients are introduced into a plant’s water supply artificially, soil is no
    longer required for the plant to thrive. Almost any terrestrial
    plant will grow with hydroponics.

    Billions of container plants are
    produced annually, including fruit, shade, and ornamental trees, shrubs, forest
    seedlings, vegetable seedlings, bedding plants, herbaceous perennials, and
    vines. Most container plants are produced in soilless media, representing
    soilless culture. However, most are not hydroponics because the soilless medium
    often provides some of the mineral nutrients via slow release fertilizers,
    cat ion exchange, and decomposition of the organic medium itself. Most soilless
    media for container plants also contain organic materials such as peat or composted bark,
    which provide some nitrogen to the plant. Greenhouse growth of plants in peat
    bags is often termed hydroponics, but, in the technical sense, it is not
    because the medium provides some of the mineral nutrients.

    Plants that are not
    traditionally grown in a climate would be possible to grow using a controlled
    environment system like hydroponics. During World War II, produce was grown
    with hydroponics on the barren Pacific
    Islands. According to a
    1938 Times magazine article, this was one of the first times that commercial
    use of hydroponics was used on such a large scale to feed people. This group of
    islands was used as a refueling stop for Pan-Am Airways, and the food was used
    to feed the staff and crew. This means that salad greens could possibly be
    grown in Antarctica or even the Mojave Desert.
    NASA has also looked to utilize hydroponics in the space program. Ray Wheeler,
    plant physiologist at Kennedy
    Space Center’s
    Space Life Science Lab, believes that hydroponics will create advances within
    space travel. He terms this as “a life support system with the biological
    component of growing plants — called a bio regenerative life support system. It
    has several benefits for NASA.” These Scientists are researching how different
    amounts of light, temperature and carbon dioxide, along with plant species can
    be grown and cultivated on planets like Mars.


    Some of the reasons why
    hydroponics is being adapted around the world for food production are the

    No soil is neededThe water stays in the system and can be reused – thus, lower water
    costsIt is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety –
    thus, lower nutrition costsNo nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of
    the controlled systemStable and high yieldsPests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of
    the container’s mobility

    Today, hydroponics is an
    established branch of agronomy. Progress has been rapid, and results obtained in
    various countries have proved it to be thoroughly practical and to have very
    definite advantages over conventional methods of horticulture.
    The two chief merits of the soil-less cultivation of plants are, first,
    hydroponics produces much higher crop yields, and, second, hydroponics can be
    used in places where in-ground agriculture or gardening are not possible.


    The two main types of
    hydroponics are solution culture and medium culture. Solution culture does not
    use a solid medium for the roots, just the nutrient solution. The three main
    types of solution culture are static solution culture, continuous-flow solution
    culture and aeroponics. The medium culture method has a solid medium for the
    roots and is named for the type of medium, e.g., sand culture, gravel culture,
    or rockwool culture.

    There are two main variations
    for each medium, sub-irrigation
    and top irrigation.For all techniques, most hydroponic reservoirs are now built of plastic,
    but other materials have been used including concrete, glass, metal, vegetable
    solids, and wood. The containers should exclude light to prevent algae growth
    in the nutrient solution.

    Let us hope Aquaponics and
    Hydroponics will be practiced on a mass scale in Developing countries.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India





  • Anonymous

    From a NPR piece today…

    “More than 80 percent of seafood eaten in the country is imported. And about half of the foreign seafood is farmed.”

    Then put that together with something from GreenTechMedia …

    ” Rooftop gardens are an example of an old idea that has been rediscovered by modern green architecture. Taken a step further, vertical gardens,
    grown in hi-rise structures, have been suggested as a means to reduce
    the footprint of an industry that currently occupies an area the size of
    South America (and is continuously expanding).

    is a technique for producing fresh, organic fish and vegetables
    year-round, anywhere in the world. A combination of aquaculture and
    hydroponics, aquaponics allows farmers to grow fish and plant crops
    together in a single integrated, soil-less system. In these systems,
    fish waste fertilizes plants, while plants naturally filter water for

    This is a system that makes a lot of sense to me.  We’ve got cities around the world with lots of people with too little access to fresh and a need for jobs.  And a lot of flat roof space.

    I’ve done some hydroponic gardening, it’s works fine and can be a great sp

Back to Top ↑