[permaculture] pc aquaponics

KAKerby at aol.com KAKerby at aol.com
Mon Oct 8 09:09:13 EDT 2012

But have you actually LOOKED at any of the research being done?  As I  
pointed out, lots and lots of university research being conducted right now in a 
 lot of different aspects of this approach, and yes nutrient density of the 
 resulting plant tissue is right up there.  Brix measurements can be as 
high  or higher than the finest organic stands of soil-based agriculture for 
leaf  tissue.  Complex nutrient density is present if it's present in the 
system,  and missing if it's missing from the system (just like soil-based ag, 
where  crops forcibly grown on tired out soils are going to be missing a lot 
of  nutrients).  It's assumptions like this that are so very limiting.   The 
same assumptions were made about organic ag not 10 years ago - "it's no 
more  nutritious so what's the point"?   If the nutrients are in the system,  
the plants will pick them up.  If the nutrients aren't there, they  won't.  
That's not a function of whether the plants are growing in a soil  or 
soilless media.  That's a question of whether the nutrients are in the  system as a 
whole.  I've seen a lot of dead soils on working farms.   I'd rather take 
food for my table from a system I know is balanced and working  with healthy 
plants and fish, rather than produce from those over-mined soils  with a 
history of herbicide and pesticide reliance.  And a lot of folks  have no way 
to measure how tired out the soils were, which produced the food  they eat.  
Presuming that soil-based is better, is ignoring all the  problems in 
soil-based farming.
And before folks start talking about "yea, but you have to introduce those  
nutrients, so it's artificial", I would point out that's true for many of 
the  world's soils as well.  We have to supply a variety of trace minerals  
such as selenium to our soils, to bring them into balance and keep them  
there.  Does that make our soil-based farming unnatural?  Does that  make 
farming in whole regions with depleted soils, such as Australia, simply  
unnatural? Or is that simply a reflection that no soil, anywhere, is perfectly  
balanced?  And even if our soils are perfectly balanced for that particular  crop 
at that particular time, they won't stay that way.  We'll have to  
introduce some method of bringing those withdrawn trace nutrients back to our  
soils, as they are removed by the crops and the crops removed from the system  
(ie, eaten or sold).  So from that standpoint, soil-based and soilless ag  are 
the same.  The methods used to introduce those trace nutrients are the  
same as well.  Both systems have the choice to use natural or artificial  
supplementation.  With aquaponics however, you have immediate negative  feedback 
if the supplementation is too harsh, because the health of the fish  will 
suffer.  In soil-based ag, many times the farmer has no indication of  
long-term issues at all.  The folks downstream might not know it for  years or 
decades to come.
Another objection to aquaponics is that folks believe it's missing the rich 
 web of microscopic life that is found in healthy soils.  Again, have you  
actually LOOKED for information on that?  One of the most exciting  
developments for both hydroponics and aquaponics is that proactive innoculation  
with beneficial bacterial and/or fungal colonies works just as well in soilless 
 ag as it does in soil-based ag.  That discovery was made over a decade 
ago,  and has become a fundamental part of disease prevention and nutrient 
update for  those growers who are interested in really giving their plants all 
the tools  available.  Much like it's been a tool for soil-based growers for 
millenia,  but not everyone takes advantage of that option.  If that sounds  
artificial, does that mean soil-based ag should stop innoculating the soil 
for  things like peas and lentils, alfalfa and beans?  It's more familiar  
to us because it's been a part of soil-based ag for generations.  But don't  
assume hydroponics/aquaponics doesn't have that option too.  It does, and  
it's being used just as beneficially.
To make blanket statements about what aquaponics can and cannot do, or  
produce, or solve, without actually working with this approach or reading the  
research materials and day-to-day working results for those using this 
system,  is head-in-the-sand behavior.  If you doubt something about it (or any  
topic), GO LOOK for information on it.  You might be surprised at what you  
Kathryn Kerby
Snohomish, WA
In a message dated 10/8/2012 4:28:19 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time,  
venaurafarm at bellsouth.net writes:

On  10/8/2012 1:15 AM, christopher nesbitt wrote:
> Thank you for this. Its  funny that aquaponics, one small practice,
> generates so much  naysaying. I have seen this often, and the
> arguments all tend to be  the same: its not natural, or: it cannot be
> balanced if it is not  coming from soil, and: It is capital intensive.
> Thank you, Kathryn,  for pointing out the obvious: aquaponics lends
> itself to extremely  localized food systems. No food miles is a good
> thing.

The  problem as I see it is that as far as I know you can not grow food 
with  the same nutritional value (vitamins, minerals, etc.) in an 
aquaponic or  hydroponics system as you can growing those same crops in 
soil that has  been properly nutrient/mineral amended and balanced.

That is what Scott  is saying and I say the same. I would not hesitate to 
eat food grown in an  aquaponic or hydroponic system but I would not make 
that my only source of  food and would require that most of my food be 
grown in soil, of adequate  quality.

I doubt anyone is naysaying aquaponics; it has too much to  offer and is 
a resource truly within the realm of  permaculture.

> Kathryn said: "
>> I also question whether  a farm that grows in soil, but trucks in
>> all its supplies and  trucks out all its produce, is  "better" than
>> someone who  raises food via aquaponics in their backyard with 1/10
>> the space,  1/10 the water, 1/1000 of the petroleum, and by the
>> system   design, can't use pesticides or herbicides.

You are what you eat. In  principle the aquaponics is much better from a 
carbon footprint point of  view and a lack of pesticide residues but a 
person has to get complete  nutrition. Unless I am shown otherwise I 
can't see aquaponics providing  all a person needed year after year, only 
part of what you need. You will  have to get the rest from soil grown 
crops. Why can't you irrigate outdoor  gardens with part or all of the 
aquaculture effluent? Do both on the same  site, one backs up the other, 
all are "locally grown", low carbon  footprint.

This is a great topic to discuss. I hope it will continue.  Remember The 
New Alchemy Institute, John Todd and staff? They got the ball  rolling 
with aquaponics.

> 1/10the water use? 1/10th the space?  1/1000th the petroleum use?
> Can't use pesticides or herbicides? That  sounds pretty good, to me.
> Scott asked:
>> in this  closed system, where does the selenium,  calcium and
>>  phosphorous come from?
> Perhaps part of the problem you have  with aquaponics, Scott, is that
> you, like many who naysay, do not  understand aquaponics. The system
> is NOT closed. You are bringing food  to the fish, and taking veggies
> out. That is a linear system. The only  "closed" aspect is the water.
> While the water recirculates, you have  inputs in feed, wether you
> make your own, raise your own or buy Purina  Aquaponics Chow (which IS
> a problem), and remove herbs, veggies and  fish from the system. Water
> leaves the fish tank laden with some  manure, and returns filtered by
> the gravel, bacteria and plant roots,  oxygenated.
> Amongst its many attributes, one of the ones that  impresses me is
> that it is highly productive. Joel Malcolm produced  over 100
> kilograms of veggies and herbs, over 50 kilograms of fish, in  an area
> 4x8 meters, in six months. That is a staggering amount of  food, in
> just veggies and herbs, alone. Considering the fish,  thats
> fantastic.
> So, is it balanced? that begs the  question: What are you feeding your
> fish? If the source of your fish  is worms from your land, or black
> soldier fly larvae from compost from  your land, or from a bug zapper
> placed over the tank, or from raised  mosquito larvae, or from
> tadpoles, or from algae, or, if you are  making pellets from egg, rice
> bran, coconut, moringa leaf, acai berry,  noni, chicken parts
> (organically grown, and butchered on site), and  the soil that comes
> from is balanced, then... the mineral content of  the fish manure
> should be balanced in minerals. The mineral content of  your fish dung
> is tied to the mineral content of the what you are  feeding them.
> In an on line evening discussing aquaponics, a  group of people came
> up with "decaponics", which was a series of  energy and nutrient flows
> built around aquaponics. There were 10  components. As I recall, in
> our free for all design, we penned in  rabbits, sheep, a piggery with
> biogas plant, ducks, vermicomposting,  spirulina production, and some
> other things. I forget. I think a bug  zapper was over the fish tank.
> The papers are somewhere. The point is  that aquaponics can be tied
> into larger things.
> In a  world of expanding populations, soil depletion and loss of
> farmland,  NOT considering aquaponics seems to me to be discarding a
> useful tool.  To me, clearly aquaponics has a role to play.

More emphasis needs to be  placed on local biointensive food production 
on suitable land. Aquaponics  has an important place in such systems. Why 
not emphasize protein  production in aquaculture systems? Feed the 
effluent to the gardens but  retain enough to provide nutritional needs 
of an aquaponic system in a  greenhouse to help ensure a year-round food 
supply. Valuable cash crops  can be grown this way, some food, some other 
(legal ones). What about  growing baby ginger, galangal and turmeric in 
an aquaponics system of one  that uses soil constantly irrigated with 
aquaponics effluent. Make sure  harvested crops are clean
before using or selling them.

> Again,  in a situation, like in an urban setting, or where soils are
> either  depleted or contaminated, or where inadequate water is
> available to  produce in soil, producing out of season veggies
> locally, either from  home use or for commercial use, in a world of
> increasing costs of  transported food, aquaponics has plenty to offer.
> It is not THE  solution, but, in a nuanced world, it is A solution. As
> I mentioned,  earlier, having a biological filter comprised of gravel,
> bacteria on  the gravel, and plant roots, allows for high stocking
> densities of  fish. High stocking densities of fish being filtered
> through  bacterially colonized gravel, with plant roots, enables
> people to  produce veggies with no petroleum miles on them, lots of
> veggies and  fish, in a small area. The only cost is the initial
> energy to build  the system, and the electricity to run it, and, of
> course, the energy  to source your feed.

Join the compost tea list. There is much to learn  on this subject
(aerobic/anaerobic/bacteria/fungi/nutrients and  minerlas/etc from that 
friendly commmunity. Its the compost_tea list at  yahoo.
> As Kathryn and I have said, aquaponics is one tool to  have in your
> tool kit. It is not THE answer, but it is a solution to a  fairly
> large set of problems. I would not relegate soil based  agriculture to
> the dust bin of history, hahahah, and I still farm a  lot of land,
> over 25 acres, now, a full on food forest, with over 500  species, but
> aquaponics has huge potential, and I am looking forward  to working
> with our system. I intend to add the occasional cup of  compost tea to
> our system, for fungal communities.
>  Lastly, Scott, I wasn't going to throw in mangrove. In the last 12
>  years, I have done a lot of work for Fisheries Dept installing
>  photovoltaic systems in seven marine protected areas. Mangrove, like
>  most "edges", is very productive, in fish and crustaceans, birds.
>  Apart from "coco plum", and "sea almond", not much food can grow in
>  mangrove, and none can in red mangrove, which is the species of
>  mangrove that grows directly in salt water, here. White mangrove and
>  black mangrove prefer sandy soil. Belize has %3.4 of it's territory
> in  mangrove. That is still %98.7 of its colonial spread. In Belize
>  mangrove is protected. Its not really a good analogy to chinampa or
>  rice paddy, as you pointed out. I am not sure why you brought it  up.

Read my reference to what is being done with sustainable mangrove  
forestry in Eritrea. It fits in perfectly with local sustainable  
food/fiber/livestock feed systems with stacked  functions.

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