AQUAPONICS PRACTITIONERS

Aquaponik, a combination of fish farming and soilless plant farming, is growing in popularity ang gaining attention as an important and potentially more sustainable methode of food production. Aquaponic is the mutually beneficial integration of hydroponics (e.g., soilless systems for crop production) and aquaculture (e.g., aquatic animal farming) to simultanneously produce plant and animal products. In an aquaponic system, aquatic animals excrete waste, bacteria convert the waste into nutrients, and plants remove the nutrients and improve water qualityfor the aquatic animals. A brief history of hydroponics and aquaculture helps provide a contex for how and when aquaponics was established as  a field.

Aquaponics applies methodes developed by the hydroponics industry. The development of hydroponics can be traced to work by Dr. William Gericke at the University of California in 1929. Chemical salts dissolved in water are the source of nutrients in hydroponics system. Most of hydroponics operation are performed in controlled environtment facilities, such as greenhouses, which were developed following world war  II as industrial approach  to intensively grow food crops. The introduction of plastic in the 1940s, and particularly clear polyethylene as acover of greenhoses, was an important development. It is common for commercial aquaponic operations to use greenhouses and controlled environtment agriculture methodes to increase crop production yields, essentially drawing on methodes developed by hydropnics practitioners.

Aquaponics was also infuenced by work in the early 1970s by aquaculture researchers who experimented with raising fish in land-based tanks with continously  recycled water (w.g., resirculating aquaculture systems or RAS). A major challenge for recirculating aquaculture was the accumulation of nitogen compounds, apotentially toxic by-product of fish waste. Investigators experimented with soilles plant systems  as a means which marked the beginnings of contemporary aquaponics.  Engineers have since developed a variety of biofilters to treat fish systems improved water quality and produced a second profit center in the form of edible plants. is what distinguishes aquaponics from other forms of recirculating aquaculture.

The development of aquaponics was also influenced by the sustainable agriculture movement. The concept of farming in ways that mimic natural systems, known as permaculture, has been practiced for thousands of years, but was first codified by researchers in the mid-1970s in Australia.

Additional refinements in aquaponics where prompted by university investigators seeking to establish aquaponics as aviable agricultural enterprise. In the 1980s, Mark McMurty adopted a flood-drain method for watering crops in sand media beds. Later, in the 1990s and 2000s, Dr. James Rakocy and othjer investigators documented the commercial productivity of aquaponics, developed deep-water hydroponics, and led popular training course at the University of the Virgin Island. As this knoeledge spreads to other locations, it continues to evolve and broaden aquaponic design and practices.

Aquaponics is touted as a form of sustainable agriculture because it mimics natural systems, is water efficient, and has fewer environtmenttal impacts tahn some of aquaculture. Aquaponic systems exist at veriaty of scales and for different uses, personal use or as a hobby, for community and economic development, as a  teaching  tool in science educations, or as a means of increasing food production in urban setting where opportunity for conventional agriculture production is limited due to environmental contamination and space limitation.

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