[permaculture] Is This Aquaponics Then?

Scott Pittman scott at permaculture.org
Mon Jun 8 17:44:12 EDT 2015

See comments within email below....
Scott P.

"To change something build a new model that makes the existing model
obsolete"  Buckminster Fuller

-----Original Message-----
From: permaculture [mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf
Of Toby Hemenway
Sent: Monday, June 08, 2015 9:06 AM
To: permaculture
Subject: Re: [permaculture] Is This Aquaponics Then?

> On Jun 7, 2015, at 3:28 PM, Steve Hart <stevenlawrencehart at gmail.com>
> We know that composts of all nature of
> recipes assist in stimulating natures dynamics and it is in my opinion
> this is where we need to travel in designing and building better

Aquaponics involves microbe-driven nutrient conversion of manures to live
fertilizers very similar to those that go on in soil. Why isn't that
natural? Because it's in water? Soil fertility is in water too (nutrients
are water suspended or dissolved, else the roots couldn't take them up). 

**I'm still on the fence with both Hydroponics and Aquaponics and for many
of the same reasons that Steve is but with a different concern...
Since most of our edible plants evolved from soil based growth, which is an
aerobic condition, they have co-evolved with certain soil based
micro-organisms.  This condition is one that has provided the basis of the
evolution of the nutrient content of most of our edibles.  If we change this
to an anaerobic environment it must surely change the relationship from
aerobic micro-organism to anaerobic micro-organisms and thereby have to
change or modify the nutrient content of the target plant. My question is
have there been any comparative studies done on nutrients of plants grown in
both environments?  We do know that there has been a severe loss of
nutrients, particularly zinc, iron, and calcium in plants grown with
petrochemical fertilizers.    

As far as plant nutrient uptake is concerned I always thought that this was
more of an anion/cation exchange between, primarily, clay particles in the
soil and rootlets of plants in an unsaturated environment.  This being an
electronic exchange it does not need to be in solution, no more than
lightning does.**  

Steve, could you describe what you mean by "natural?" It's a slippery word
that means very different things to different people. 

As I've said before, nuclear fission is natural, arsenic is natural,
botulism is natural, polio is natural. Those are not healthy to have near
human systems. Burning of some landscapes by indigenous people is
artificial, yet extremely healthy for biodiversity and human welfare. The
natural/artificial distinction is not a valid criterion to judge
appropriateness of a system.  Natural does not equal healthy, artificial
does not equal unhealthy. Any permaculturist should know that our criteria
are function and ecosystem health, not some slippery and arbitrary set of
boxes created by subjective prejudice as to whether something is
"artificial"  or not. We've gone round this one several times, and you keep
returning to "aquaponics produces artificial food" as the basis for your
argument. Can you cite evidence for your claim that aquaponic food is no
healthier than soda pop?

** About the only thing I can think of in our, virtually, closed system
called Earth would be GMO insertion of animal genetic material in plant
genetic material.  I'm sure there are others, zircon for instance, but they
are few and far between.  So natural has become an almost meaningless word,
especially in the context of permaculture.**


We need to be looking at the effects of these process on human and
ecological health, not making a "this isn't natural therefore it's bad"
arbitrary judgement based on whether we like the technology or processes
involved, or whether we things there is some esoteric life force present or

**The only thing that defines whether something is esoteric or not is
whether or not science has blessed that something with its stamp of
approval, or in the case of Galileo the stamp of the Pope was sufficient to
brand Galileo's work esoteric.**


Coming in July: my new book on urban permaculture, The Permaculture City.
Pre-order it at on-line booksellers or at

**I am writing this, not to prolong the endless debate, but to try and
elucidate why one would not wholeheartedly embrace these technologies
without asking some very basic questions.**


Coming soon: My new book in the invisible structures, "Permaculture Dharma".

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