Aquaponics is defined as a bio-integrated process that adapts recirculating hydroponic plant production with aquaculture. It is a working model that provides sustainable food production that can even be done in the backyard in urban areas. It has gained increased attention as a bio-integrated food production system.
Aquaponics has been derived with the following principles:
• Water is continuously re-used by the process of recirculation and biological filtration.
• It provides access to healthy foods.
• The integration of fish and plants results in a polyculture that increases diversity and yields multiple products.
• The waste products of each biological system serve as nutrients that are helpful to both plants and aquatic animals.
The Aztec was the first civilization to practice aquaponics. The Aztec cultivated agricultural islands that are known to them as “chinampas” and as the very first form of aquaponics that were used for agricultural use, where plants are grown on stationary islands in shallow lakes and waste materials or effluents from Chinampa canals are used to manually irrigate the plants.
Today, researchers experimented with wastewater management and bioshelters that can be used for crop production. Through this objective, it advanced to the concept of fish effluent as fertilizer for crop production. This led to the use of fish pond water to irrigate plants but the described techniques did not form a circulatory growth environment for what was now termed as aquaponics until they have combined hydroponics with aquaculture in the 1970’s.
Greenhouse growers and farmers are taking note of aquaponics for several reasons:
• Fish-manured irrigation water is a good source of organic fertilizer for plants to grow well.
• Hydroponics is a biofiltration method that can facilitate intensive recirculating aquaculture.
• Aquaponics is a process that can introduce organic hydroponic produce into the marketplace; since fertility input is fish feed only and all the nutrients passes through a biological process.
• Aquaponics can produce fresh vegetables and fish protein even in dry regions and even on water-limited farms, since water recirculating in the system.
• Aquaponics is a working model of sustainable food production with the combination of plant and animal agriculture are linked.
• Food-producing greenhouses that are eco-friendly.
Since the birth of aquaponics, it has become a popular training ground on integrated bio-systems with vocational agricultural courses and even in secondary school biological classes.
Aquaponics technology does require the ability to manage the production and even marketing two types of agricultural products. The innovation of hydroponics and aquaculture has transformed aquaponics in the 1980’s into a viable food production system but does require an intensive management and building such systems have special considerations.