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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs