News / USA

Aquaponics Could Signal Future of Food

Technique combines fish farming, soil-less plants

Hydroponic gardener and author Sylvia Bernstein discovered she could use the waste water from fish to grow organic vegetables and fruits.
Hydroponic gardener and author Sylvia Bernstein discovered she could use the waste water from fish to grow organic vegetables and fruits.

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

Imagine growing vegetables and fish in the same space. That’s the idea behind aquaponics,  a marriage of fish farming and soil-less plant cultivation in a single, sustainable closed system.



Supporters believe aquaponics can play a key role in alleviating food insecurity, addressing the problems of climate change, ground water pollution and overfishing.

Recirculating wetlands system

Aquaponics is really as old as nature itself.

“Aquaponics is really a recirculating wetlands system, so it’s happening right on the banks of our lakes," says Sylvia Bernstein.

Bernstein was a hydroponic gardener for years - growing plants without soil using a water-soluble chemical fertilizer - before discovering she could use the waste water from fish to grow organic vegetables and fruits.

“Honestly, I was very skeptical and just couldn’t believe that something as simple as fish waste could become a complete fertilizer," she recalls. "So I had to actually see a system that was in a friend’s basement. But when I did, it changed my life.”

That was three years ago. Bernstein built her first aquaponics system with her 15-year-old son on a concrete pad outside her home in Boulder, Colorado. In her greenhouse today, she mainly raises tilapia and trout - feeding them once a day.

There are no weeds in her aquaponics garden, and she doesn’t have to worry about watering. The plants are growing in containers at a table height for easy access.

“I, just this morning, pulled four radishes and some lettuce for lunch," Bernstein says. "In my greenhouse right now, I grow all sorts of herbs, tomatoes, peppers.”

Bernstein started her own business, The Aquaponics Source, with an online store, her own YouTube channel and a blog. She teaches aquaponics at the Denver Botanic Gardens and recently published a book about how to set up an aquaponic garden at home.

According to Berstein, a growing number of people in the U.S. and around the world are doing it, and enjoying the results: a year-round supply of healthful, safe and delicious food.

Earth-friendly food production

The Internet is helping many aquaponic gardeners get connected and learn from one another.

“Aquaponics is a perfect thing to invest one’s mind and heart and elbow grease into," says James Godsil, co-founder of Sweet Water Organics, a commercial aquaponics farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 2010, Godsil helped set up a foundation to promote the approach.

“The Sweet Water Foundation was dedicated to democratizing and globalizing the information and the methodologies required to advance this very Earth-friendly food production system, which, by the way, only uses about 10 percent of the water normal farming does, and uses no pesticides. It’s all natural.”

According to Godsil, those advantages have been a powerful incentive for people from all walks of life who are considering a career in aquaponics.  

“The Sweet Water Foundation probably has had 500 supporters, including school students, and a community of retired engineers, professionals, social enterprisers, teachers and artists," Godsil says. "There are so many young elders who are retiring and looking for another career for the next 20 years.”

Beyond borders

Through collaboration and joint projects, Godsil is carrying the inspiration beyond U.S. borders.

“I was asked to go to Venezuela this March," he says. "And I’m working with people who have a project in Ecuador, I'm working with people in the Congo, in Uganda and Tanzania.”

A private group called the Society for Appropriate Rural Technology for Sustainability, is partnering with Sweet Water Foundation on an initiative in India.

“We’ve formed this Indo-American Aquaponics Initiative, and we aim to make aquaponics one of the fastest growing economic activities in India within a decade," says Subra Mukherjee, secretary of the group, based in Kolkata, India.

Advocates say, with fuel and fertilizer prices climbing and irrigation water supplies dwindling, aquaponics offers a sustainable alternative that can help feed the world’s growing population.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid