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Aquaponics has grown in popularity as an alternative to traditional crop-growing methods. It allows growers to raise plants and vegetables together conveniently. While it doesn’t require much space to set up an aquaponics grow bed, most growers use electricity as their main power source to keep the system running. Because most aquaponics setups are not completely off-grid or using sustainable energy sources such as solar, many skeptics have begun to speculate on whether or not the growing technique has a broad negative impact on natural ecosystems. So the question remains, is aquaponics bad for the environment?
The answer is no; aquaponics is not bad for the environment. In fact, it is better for the environment compared to industrial farming or even organic farming practices. Much of the popularity of aquaponics has been due to its sustainability, allowing the growth of various crops with only a few resources involved.
This article will explain how aquaponics can be much better than traditional farming and the different ways this system can benefit the environment.
How Industrial Farming Affects The Environment
Many people are unaware of the environmental impact it takes to get produce and livestock to a local grocery store. Despite a heightened societal awareness over the past 30 years, industrial agriculture continues to be one of the most unsustainable farming practices even to this day. Large-scale intensive farming often promotes the over-consumption of natural resources, land, and animals, all of which can have serious long-term effects on natural ecosystems.
Providing a growing population with food doesn’t come without its cost, in addition, to increase production things such as industrial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and GMOs have been introduced to increase crop yields. But that’s not to say organic farming doesn’t affect the environment either.
Challenges With Organic Farming
When it comes to food production, organic farming is generally considered a more sustainable alternative to industrial methods. Crop rotation practices and the lack of pesticide and fertilizer use promotes soil biodiversity and soil fertility. In addition, without the use of chemicals, cross-contamination of other ecosystems such as rivers and streams is reduced since there will be no pesticide or fertilizer leaching.
However, in a study published in Nature Communications, it was found that despite the benefits of organic farming, it can still harm the environment. The study noted that organic yields are typically much lower compared to those from industrial farming methods. To be able to meet the growing demand for organic products, an increase in production is necessary. This means there is a need to clear more land or increase overseas imports. In an effort to meet rising consumer demand, organic farming can consequently increase greenhouse gas emissions in other areas of the supply chain, such as transportation.
While industrial agriculture and organic farming use acres of soil to be able to grow crops, aquaponics does not. Utilizing this fairly new technology could be a responsible solution to the growing problems in our environment.
Reasons Why Aquaponics Helps the Environment
Below are some of the environmental benefits that make aquaponics a better method of food production:
Reduced Water Usage
The use of 90% less water is one of the most important benefits of aquaponics. While traditional farming requires water for irrigation, aquaponics does not. In fact, water recirculates through the system for both plants and animals.
One hundred gallons of water in your fish tank can be reused over and over for several days without problems. On the other hand, the same volume of water can only nourish plants on soil plots for hours. This becomes helpful in areas where drought is a recurring problem because there is a reduced dependency on watering plants regularly.
No need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides
In conventional farming, fertilizers are synthesized using mined minerals, like phosphorus. While the planet may not be running out of phosphorus, according to experts, mining and processing of this mineral often lead to wastage. Wasted phosphorus usually ends up in natural waterways, which can result in water pollution or contamination. Clearly, this serves as an example of an unsustainable practice.
In aquaponics, however, there is no need to use fertilizers or even human resources and machinery for fertilizer application. The fish readily provide the fertilizers through their waste. Bacteria convert fish excrement into food for the plants. This should make you feel better about the quality of the crops you are growing.
As for pest control, aquaponics also doesn’t rely on chemicals. As mentioned in our previous article, aquaponics uses natural methods to address pest problems, which include manual removal and the introduction of beneficial insects. Even certified organic pesticides can harm the fish and disrupt the system. By using aquaponics, you can be confident that what’s going on in the aquaponics system is natural.
No environmental pollution
Since there is no need for fertilizers or even chemical pesticides, there is no risk of runoff with aquaponics. There is no concern about these chemicals reaching the waterways and contributing to environmental pollution because they are not used in the first place.
Doesn’t Require Acres of Land
As mentioned earlier, traditional farming requires acres of land to operate. Not to mention the human resources and machinery needed to ensure soil biodiversity and fertility. But aquaponics, being a soilless method, doesn’t require any of that.
You can use the space in your backyard to grow your own crops using aquaponics. If going for a large-scale commercial system, one needs to find a place to set up the tank and grow beds. Even abandoned warehouses can be a great place to start aquaponics.
No Waste Produced
Not only does aquaponics recycle the water, but there is also no form of wastage using this system. Unharvested plants can either be used to feed the fish (or other animals) or used as compost.
Conclusion: Is Aquaponics Bad for the Environment?
Aquaponics is not bad for the environment. For the reasons mentioned above, this sustainable, soilless method of growing crops and raising fish proves to be a friendlier and better alternative to conventional farming practices.