Take a minute to read about how local sustainable farming spurs economic development while combating climate change.
In the past decades, huge progresses have been made in hydroponics, and, more recently, Aquaponics. Aquaponic systems allow to farm fishes, and the water filled with wastes is used to grow and harvest plants, which species have been carefully selected according to their ecology. Taking advantages of the natural ability of bacteria to recycle nutrients, and the ability of gravels and plants to filtrate water, the ensemble make a sustainable ecological loop that allow to grow plants, and fish for nutrition.
Urban Organics, an enterprise in the US, is a pioneering example of a successful sustainable Urban Aquaponics. Haberman and his colleagues have developed an urban-friendly aquaponic system that grows vegetables and herbs from the wastewater of fish tanks. One advantage is that the system is indoors and resilient to extreme weather events, which guarantee a stock of vegetable crops all year-round. It should be noted that plants grow faster in an aquaponic system than in a conventional farm, since the nutrients are present in water the plants don’t have to develop an expanded root system. It also prevent from parasite's infection and insect-related damages. Moreover, for a 5 by 50 feet sized-tank, about 10 to 25 000 fishes can be grown over 9 months depending on the setup, or the fish species that are carefully selected by ecologists.
Economical, ecological and social benefits
Urban aquaponic systems give the opportunity to develop various business plans assuming the required expertise is available. And the business can be profitable, both for the enterprise and the local economic activity. As a case in point, the Urban Organic project led to important no less than US$200 million in economic development. Moreover, several hundred jobs have been created in the community surrounding Urban Organics.
Green farms, and aquaponic system can therefore provide jobs while yield fresh food products that benefit the local population. Some business cases such Agriloops (France) have been taking advantage of this to provide marine crustacean which have been traditionally imported from abroad. With a product that is fresh and local, they achieved to be competitive both in quality and price. In addition, I stress that short-circuit retailing also reduce the cost of transport, infrastructure, and of cold-chain management systems, and their associated environmental costs. Furthermore, the production can easily avoid the use of costly machines, pesticides, works with a reduced labor cost, etc.
The diversity of existing enterprises developing or implementing aquaponics is increasing worldwide. We envision that aquaponic systems will continue to expand and merge with other modes of productions, including vegetables, fruits, etc. It is likely that solutions will be find to integrate aquaponics with with advanced vertical farming systems, such as the one developed by Sky Greens. Sky Greens is an hydraulic-driven vertical farm which expertise has been recognized worldwide. In addition, vertical culture would allow to use a minimum of space while absorbing tons of CO2, thus mitigating the effects of climate change. One limitation however may be the high cost of lighting required. To overcome this limitation, greenhouse-based aquaponics and solar energy could be implemented.
The comprehensive integration of urban design and aquaponic farming is also of crucial importance in order to develop more sustainable cities. We hope the aquaponic community will share their various expertises and give feedbacks about how to accelerate and promote the implementation or urban farming in the urban landscape, and we invite them to come to publish and comments on this forum. We believe such efforts of developing circular economy-based businesses will encourage community efforts that nurture the spirit of a better society.
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Complimentary image from Sky Green: