Aquaponic systems are extremely versatile and can be used for both personal and commercial benefits, whilst simultaneously protecting the environment.
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Aquaponic Benefits for the Backyard Producer
Undoubtedly there is some work and cost involved in establishing an Aquaponics system, yet the benefits far exceed this. Aquaponics give families the opportunity to establish a sustainable supply of healthy organic produce throughout the whole year. Once the system has been established, maintenance is minimal and the return is high. Unlike backyard gardens, there is no 'back-breaking' work as Aquaponic systems are typically built so that the plants and roots are above ground level, so you hardly have to bend your back to plant, grow and harvest produce. There are a large array of produce that can be grown using Aquaponics, such as fruiting vegetables like strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, capsicum (bell pepper), eggplant (aubergine); herbs like basil, oregano; and a variety of peas, beans, chives and lettuces, just to name a few. There really are very few restrictions on the type of produce you can grow using Aquaponics, even root crops such as carrots and beetroots have been successful grown using Aquaponic systems. Water availability can be a critical restricting factor when establishing a backyard garden. However, Aquaponics removes this restriction because of the reduced water use and self-sustaining nature of the system. Aquaponics can also act as a great learning tool for children, teaching them the value of sustainable living and the different ecological interactions between plant, fish and their environment.
Aquaponic Benefits for the Commercial Producer
Commercial production of food, whether it is on a small or large scale, is limited by soil fertility and water availability. Unfortunately, many areas of land have poor soil quality and/or issues with water reliability. Also, regions of high fertility and good water availability are typically very expensive and inaccessible to the typical producer. Although it is possible to establish commercial crops in areas, the cost is extremely high. Aquaponics provides an excellent solution to these limiting factors and in many aspects it is far superior to traditional methods. Aquaponics can be set up by anyone, in any location and water supply can be as simple as rainwater stored in tanks. Conventional horticultural farms require high expenditure through irrigation systems, farm equipment and the use of synthetic chemicals, just to name a few. Aquaponic systems don't require labour and cost intensive operations such as ploughing and herbicide/pesticide applications. Not only is there an economic benefit from using Aquaponics in
commercial applications, there are also health benefits because farmers don't need to expose themselves to dangerous chemicals that are frequently used in commercial operations. It is possible to produce stainable high yielding crops without the use of toxic chemicals which are proven to be damaging not only to human health, but also the environment.
Aquaponic Benefits for the Environment
As mentioned previously, there are significant environmental benefits using Aquaponic systems. Water is become an increasingly scarce resource and undoubtedly this is a significant problem that is unlikely to be resolved in the near future. Thus, it is logical to use a system of growing horticultural produce that consumes less water. Aquaponics allows producers to grow the same amount of produce while using less water. Conventional farming methods pump irrigation out into the land, where it is lost to evaporation, runoff or percolation. However, because water is recycled and reused through the Aquaponics system, water is not wasted and the water required to replenish the system is minimal. Modern farming methods often require significant chemical intervention through the application of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers to limit competition and maintain high yields. However, an Aquaponic system dramatically reduces this because the nutrient supply is provided by fish waste, eliminating the need for chemical enhancement. Also, the use of can be chemicals interrupts the ecological systems due to negative impacts on the fish, water quality and the plants. The use of controlled environments, such as greenhouses, also reduces the need for pesticides and further limits negative environmental impacts. Erosion and siltation have always been a major problem as a result of commercial horticulture. However, Aquaponic systems solve this by eliminating ploughing. Consequently topsoil is maintained along with vital soil profiles and waterways are not subjected to siltation and further degradation.
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