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Transcript of Aquaponics
What is Aquaponics? How does an aquaponic system work? How could aquaponics be beneficial for Nova Scotia and what aquaponic system would be the best option for the integration of the farming and fishing industries in NS, and why? These and other relating topics will be explored within this science fair project. Long before anyone perfected or learned the science behind aquaponics, the Aztec people of South America grew crops in rafts on the surface of a lake around 1000, AD. The Aztecs were obviously on to something great. Quite a long time after, aquaponic systems started to become more popular in Canada in the 90's. The first aquaponic installations in Canada were mostly commercial and combined lettuce and trout production. A good thing about aquaponics is that you grow around 3/4 of a pound of fish per gallon of water and that water can be recycled. It uses around 90% less water than a conventional dirt garden. Aquaponics is the combining of aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is focused only on maximizing the production of fish within a lake, pond or tank. Fish are stocked heavily which mean many effluents contaminate the water over time, and makes it have a highly toxic concentration of ammonia. Aquaculture tanks must be cleaned daily, or the fish will die. Hydroponics is the growth of plants in just water. The plants rely on man made chemicals for growth. The water must be changed frequently because salts and chemicals build up in the water that become toxic for the plants. Aquaponics combines both systems. In doing so, the negatives of both systems cancel eachother out. Instead of having toxic, harmful, man-made chemicals to grow plants, plants rely on the naturally occurring nitrate from the waste of the fish. After the ammonia, nitrite, to nitrate conversion the plants can now absorb and use nitrate as a fertilizer. The fish now have clean water because the plants have extracted all of the effluents from their water, recycling it and making it usable again.So, an aquaponic system creates a system of filtration and fertilizer. It is a sustainable and renewable food source.
The Ammonia Nitrate conversion
in 4 phases:
Fish Excrete waste:
Decomposing fish waste creates ammonia (NH3) as a by-product. Ammonia is very toxic to fish. The fish cannot continue to survive in a toxic environment filled with ammonia. So....
Ammonia converted to nitrites:
So, a bacteria (that is cultured in the grow beds and the fish tanks) called nitroso-monas sp. ingest the ammonia to grow. Their bodies then convert the ammonia to nitrite ( NO2-). This nitrite is still toxic to fish so....
Nitrites converted to nitrate:
The nitrite filled nitroso-monas sp. bacteria are eaten by another bacteria called nitrobacter sp. Those bacteria convert the nitrite to nitrate (NO3). This nitrate is not as toxic so...
Nitrates are absorbed by Plants:
The plants and/or crops can now absorb the nitrate to use as an organic fertilizer! The nitrate also promotes rampant and faster growth!
Why is it such a good option?:
Ammonia nitrate is such a good fertilizer because there are 3 things required for plant growth. Phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium. Ammonia nitrate contains about 30-35% elemental nitrogen. Using ammonia nitrate as fertilizer on a crop or plant that is situated in soil can be very harmful, though. The soil becomes very acidic over time. Since there is no soil in an aquaponics system, the ammonia nitrate can be easily used as a fertilizer with little-to-no drawbacks.
-No need for extensive retraining considering there are many farmers and fishers in Nova Scotia
-Water can be recycled
-No soil means no borne diseases
-Works in drought
-Crops can be grown in high quantity year round locally and this reduces shipping
What crops and fish can be grown in an aquaponic system?
-Goldfish (and other aquarium fish)
-Fresh water prawns
Different aquaponic systems:
The “raft” method
The “growing power” model:
The "grow bed" model
There are numerous different aquaponic systems, but the ones that could be the most beneficial for Nova Scotia would be a “growing power” model, “raft model” or a “media growbed” model. This because all are larger scale methods and would yield the most amount of crops and fish. Virtually all methods require a circulation pump and oxygen pump.
-Excellent for large scale operations
-It has a very high crop and fish yield (a smaller system would yield 100lbs of fish and 925 heads of lettuce, and a large system could yield up to 7,500 lbs of fish and 194,400 heads of lettuce)
-Installed in a greenhouse
-Slightly more extensive filtration method
-Usually only best for growing lettuce or basil.
-Good option if a community wanted to have it’s own aquaponic system.
-They are very easy to build
-parts are readily available
-compost can be very beneficial to this system.
-There can be anaerobic zones where fish are not getting enough oxygen or filtration if the system is not properly monitored
-There is dark water due to compost so you can’t see the fish.
-Excellent option for a larger scale aquaponic system.
-You can make it as big or as small as desired
-Lots of different plants can be grown in one system
-System requires an occasional cleaning.
In conclusion, aquaponics would be an excellent option for Nova Scotia and other northern areas of the world to avoid seasonal food shipping costs, and aid in reducing our carbon footprint. Many crops and fish varieties can be grown in an aquaponic system!