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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid