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Aquaponics, an alternative farming method that doesn’t use soil, is gaining attention in recent years. It uses far less water and land compared to traditional farming and doesn’t require the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. With these eco-friendly features, agricultural innovators are turning to aquaponics as a way to grow food sustainably. Having such promise as the future of eco-farming, can aquaponics feed the world? Will it be enough to end world hunger?
The simple answer is yes, aquaponics can feed the world. Since aquaponics systems don’t require much space and can be operational anywhere, fresh quality crops can be produced year-round with minimal to no impact on land resources. But can the system alone completely replace traditional agricultural practices to solve the hunger crisis? No, it won’t.
In this article, we will discuss how aquaponics can benefit society as a sustainable method of food production, its limitations, and what role it has in solving global hunger.
How Can Aquaponics Benefit Society?
Aquaponics can be an ideal and simple way of growing food. The systems are pretty much low maintenance, with much of your effort concentrated on feeding the fish and harvesting the crops. Once your aquaponics tank is established, your primary concern would be to feed the fish and maintain a well-balanced system.
The fact that it doesn’t need acreage, uses minimum resources, and is generally more low-maintenance than traditional farming makes aquaponics beneficial to society. With easier access to fresh vegetables, people can enjoy healthier crops all year.
More importantly, the sustainability of aquaponics systems can significantly reduce the amount of pollution that usually results from industrial farming practices. Furthermore, since it doesn’t require soil and use only less amount of water, practitioners are contributing to the conservation of land and water resources.
Limitations Of Aquaponics
Without a doubt, aquaponics holds incredible potential as a game-changer in food production, especially in developing countries. But this doesn’t mean the system is without limitations.
For one, the initial start-up investment for large-scale commercial systems can be substantial and might discourage would-be commercial aquaponic growers from starting the process. This is particularly true when the primary goal is to produce a profit from the operations, as is often the case with most commercial ventures. In addition, aquaponics practitioners should be equipped with field knowledge and receive proper training for the setup and maintenance to have a thriving system.
Furthermore, there is a need to power up the systems, which means a continuous supply of electricity is necessary. This can become problematic for communities in rural or remote areas who do not have immediate access to modern energy sources. Of course, however, this can be remedied by using alternative power sources such as solar power. Solar panels are becoming more affordable but still present a challenge for many poor or underdeveloped countries to implement on a massive scale.
With such limitations, the concept of micro aquaponics in which countries teach their citizens how to implement many small pods of the system in their local communities may be more cost-effective and scalable. This is especially true for developing nations. This micro pod solution can work even if there’s a lack of raw materials and trained experts. But will it be enough to solve poverty?
How Can Aquaponics Help With The Problem Of Poverty?
Despite the abovementioned limitations that might be a barrier in starting an aquaponics system, a few organizations have proven that aquaponics can work and be effective at helping to solve some of the problematic aspects of poverty.
In Mexico, a non-profit organization introduced and taught aquaponics to orphanages so children no longer have to depend so much on conventional food shipped from afar. John Musser, founder of Aquaponics & Earth witnessed how children in Mexican orphanages didn’t get enough nutrition from the food they ate.
As a result, Musser taught self-sufficiency through aquaponics. He and his wife had also shipped containers to Haiti to breed tilapia, which was used in the system to grow food for children orphaned by the Haiti Earthquake in 2010.
Meanwhile, in Canada, an aquaponic food farm – a first for the country – was created to grow produce and distribute them all across Mississauga. The fresh harvests are given to the poor members of the community who have limited access to nutritious food.
Aquaponics has also helped sustenance farmers in sub-Saharan African countries when Amsha Africa Foundation launched an aquaponics campaign in Kenya in 2007. Since then, the nonprofit has expanded to five other countries, bringing change to thousands of lives. Aquaponics Africa, another nonprofit by Ken Konschel, helps farmers design and build backyard or commercial systems.
These examples show how aquaponics technology can be and has already been used to combat poverty. In rural areas, it can serve as industrial-scale food production. For developing countries, small-scale farming would suffice. Overall, if proper support and the right training materials are provided, anyone – whether an individual, corporation or a non-profit organization can grow healthy aquaponic crops.
Conclusion: Can Aquaponics Feed The World?
With all the benefits to society and the way it has been successfully used to curb poverty in many developing areas, we can confidently say that aquaponics can feed the world. However, it is only a part of a broader solution to combat food shortages and famine that often come as a result of natural or geopolitical associated conditions.
Aquaponics may not outright replace conventional agriculture at the moment. For instance, some plants, like corn, wheat or root crops, while they can be cultivated in aquaponics, they are still likely to be grown more efficiently in soil. But when talking about crops grown above ground like lettuce and basil, aquaponics is truly one efficient farming system. With ongoing support structure for aquaponics, many growing projects – including those in small-scale farms – can become highly sustainable.