The Case for Aquaponics

I am continuously amazed at how productive and forgiving aquaponics is as a means of growing plants.  The rapid growth of the crops, intense flavour and wide range of plants that can be grown with this method are testimony to the magic that is aquaponics.

 Wilson Leonard showed via research that identical systems in parallel but one run as hydroponics and the other as aquaponics had different outcomes.  The aquaponics crops produced a greater mass of material and were less frequently attacked by sap sucking pests.  Other similar research has shown how productive aquaponics is as a method for producing excellent quality and quantities of crops, especially the leafy greens.  Our own work has shown that the major feature of aquaponics crops is the intensity of the flavour.  When selling our produce we give local chefs and restaurateur’s samples of the crops to taste, and that is generally all that is required to create a demand for the products.  The uniquely delicious flavours of aquaponics crops set them apart from other methods of farming.

 With my heavy travel schedule, and lack of a manager on our system for much of the five year period for which our aquaponics has been running, I have been astounded to see how well the crops perform even during times when they lack attention.  Ammonia and nitrite levels have been low since they stabilised in the first 3 months following construction, and the dissolved oxygen is stable at acceptable levels.  The EC of our system increases during times of intense management but decreases when the fish are not being fed maximum amounts of feed.  The pH similarly drops by around 0.5 daily during good feeding but decreases by a lesser amount when the fish are not being fed as heavily.

Our current system is based on ebb and flow beds without any additional filtration.  These beds do eventually block and require cleaning about every 18 to 24 months.  Failure to clean the beds, or planting either mint or beans in the beds, results in the water flowing across the bed to the outlet, poor cycling and low oxygen conditions in the blocked portion of the beds.  This can result in conditions of poor root health, emphasising the importance of keeping the beds clean.  We have since installed small mechanical filter traps on the inlet side of each bed which we anticipate will reduce frequency with which these beds need cleaning.

When we run our system optimally it is hugely productive.  In the best month we produced over 3 000 cucumbers, 30kg herbs and more than the monthly 80kg of tilapia.  This is a great technology and definitely one that will be seen more commonly in years to come as consumers call for the high flavoured, healthy crops produced by aquaponics.

Aquaponics Courses

 The Aquaponics Course is tailored to answer the questions people considering Aquaponics have and providing adequate information on which you can base your decisions `should I invest in this sector’,

 The next Aquaponics Courses will be as follows:

 24 & 25 July, Pretoria

  Email us on info@aquaafrica.co.za to obtain more information or register to attend.

 

Aquaponics SA

 The purpose of the Aquaponics Association is to grow the Aquaponics Industry in Southern Africa to the benefit of the Members.  We plan Open Days to view eachs farms and learn by sharing openly with each other on what works, what does not and how best to proceed.  Certified commercial members also have the opportunity to use the Association Certification as a quality assurance and use Association bar codes on their products.   Please email us for further information.

 Online Store

 Our online store seeks to provide products that are required by the Aquaculture and Aquaponics Industry.  These products are all in regular use, mostly on our own farms as well, and thus are tried and tested in the field.

 Special offer: We stock the BioGrow range of organically certified pesticides as we have found them to be very successful at controlling pest populations in our Aquaponics systems.  In order to promote the use of these products we are offering a 10% discount on the range for the month of April.

 Please feel free to browse our online store, see what interests you and let us know how we can assist you.

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