Aquaponic Gardening

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I will try to get some more detailed thoughts into my line of discussion around driving forces for aquaponic production.  I’m not sure if this was EXACTLY the section that I was asked to expand, but if it is, I hope this helps.


By now many people know that I think the world has gone mad and that in some way, I blame the marketing crowd for that.  Humanity has ended up on a treadmill of 24 hour production and income generation, but for all the wrong reasons.  When my parents grew up, and even when I was very young, the differences between doctors, lawyers, teachers and plumbers were not mind blowing.  Perhaps one extra bathroom and bedroom in their houses, and maybe one extra car if the wife needed one.  People were not surrounded by stuff and they were definitely not permanently in need of therapy.  The stuff they had were the stuff that they needed, and those items were made by companies that had pride in their products, which were build to last forever.  You were also not bankrupting yourself for quality either.  Marples, Rockwell, Record, Stanley, these woodworking tools were affordable and I have a lot of these “old time” tools still at my disposal.  I’m positive my son will not say the same about my stuff.  The latest mitre saw I bought actually has a plastic base plate.


But in our rush to keep in step with the world, we lost track of a lot of sensibility.  We really need a lot of stuff to feel good now (to reflect your STATUS you know, your EDGE. WTF), and we also need to ditch them often because if you had a pod before, you now need a pad or else your life is going down the potty.  Not that we need to feel too bad about ditching the pod because it is likely to blow the second the warranty lapse in any case.  In a few months time, my wife and myself will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  10 years is not all that long, but the only electronic items that we have left from our first year of marriage is a fridge and a cripple microwave.  We have replaced more broken appliances than what my parents or grand parents even had in an entire lifetime.  The world also makes trying to prevent wastage rather difficult.  In the UK, it is cheaper to send furniture to the tip than to try and have it redistributed to needy people (who now don’t want it anyway because it does not reflect their EDGE).  Out of warranty car parts are frightfully expensive, and as these puppies are controlled by computers these days, you rather get rid of it than let it drive until it dies of old age.  My brother just picked up a 2003 Porsche convertible in immaculate condition for next to nothing because, you know, it is OLD.


Now back to the original thought.  In our rush to have a new Porsche and replace our stuff every time we have a status shift, we have buried ourselves in a battery worker lifestyle with a total dependence on service providers for everything we REALLY need in life.  Food.  Water.  A safe and clean environment.  If these suddenly run out, how long will people actually survive in the cities?  We pay and pay and pay because we need to eat.  So in our rush to afford a terabyte computer the size of a walnut, we have allowed other people to take care of our food and water and boy did they make a mess of things.  It is out of this mess that I think a second major category of aquaponic user is going to be born.  In my past thoughts on the matter, I was focussed on the environmental and logistical drivers for aquaponics.  Things that would cause someone to consider aquaponics because of their setting, not anything much else.  


I considered countries like mine, with poor soil, patchy rainfall and little in terms of surface water compared to the amount of agriculture that is needed, in theory, to feed all the citizens.  I considered islands with steep topography, where plentiful rainfall cannot be translated into surface storage, and with the resultant scouring of the topsoil ending up with a poor soil, high rainfall but no storage scenario.  Islands also have problems with transport distance for fresh produce, making these items expensive enough to make the capital outlay of an aquaponic farm feasible.  Aquaponics did not make logical sense to me in countries with good rainfall and good soil, as you merely have to toss some seeds out and wait.  I got this from some central African countries too – places above the Sahara where subsistence agriculture is not too tricky.  Then came corporate food.  GM food.  Toxic food.  My kids come back from parties and they already know that they have to trade in their loot bags.  Those things are filled with stuff that does not have anything vaguely of organic origin dressed up as candy.  I send them off to school with fruit, dairy and wholegrain in their lunch boxes.  Often they come back with sweets in the lunchbox, explaining that so and so wanted to trade for some of their pineapple or strawberries.  Family and friends are perplexed by our three-year old wanting to know if something they have been offered is “gesond” (healthy).  I stand perplexed at the fact that so few people care about what they eat.  Apparently it takes a lot of time to prepare a meal.  I did not realise that getting up at half past five every morning to pack fresh food for everyone is such a crazy thing to do.  I have no EDGE.


Now, it seems, every one with a bit of sense may well reach a point in time that the need for a fish that does not glow in the dark or a salad that doesn’t take you to intensive care.  They may even investigate ways of producing some of their own stuff.  The mind shift that fast food may be a bad idea in the long run will be followed up with the realization that slow food takes time and effort.  Should the options be weighed and toxic food loose out, the outcome would potentially be a person willing to slow down just a few notches in order to tend to an aquaponic system.  This jump will require quite a bit of effort, because the marketers have programmed people’s minds to equate their position in this world based on utter nothingness.  Your EDGE is your STUFF.  Funny then that this stuff is worthless in two years, as per the same marketers.  Thus, as we are all doomed to be worthless in just a few years, we may as well loose our edge and grow some food.  My excuse is I never listened to people who tried to tell me what to do.  I can make a mule look like a guide dog, but the world is filled with trend slaves.  


They stand next to us and giggle a little, kind of like Noah must have felt when he was slaving away at his arc.  Things worked out in Noah’s favour though.  While dwelling on a snippet borrowed from religion, I would like to equate the shift that need to take place in society (in my view) to another little gem I once saw on my GP’s desk.  It was a sign that read something down the line of “If you find yourself too busy for God you are trying to do too much.’’  I think our lives need a sign like this.  If we are finding ourselves too busy to take proper care of ourselves and our families, then we are trying to do too much.  I’m not saying quit cold turkey on life with its joys, just find a balance.  Take food back from the corporations and back into our back yards. 


I realise that aquaponics is not going to be the only urban farming method, but it has great potential.  Beyond leafy greens.  This is where I was trying to get my mind to in the last post.  I think the systems and kits that are available today are great, but we need to get aquaponics to the “whole basket” production capacity it is capable of being.  For me the bottom line is that we are not only being fed bad food, but we are running out of resources with which to produce good food.  Aquaponics therefore is not just going to address the scarcity of food in areas where the environment limits agriculture, but it will have a chance to produce food for people that, like me and a lot of other people on this forum, have reached the conclusion that the modern lifestyle in its current format is not satisfying or wholesome at all.  Let us hope that the growth of this section of the world population is exponential.

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Comment by M Cosmo on February 21, 2011 at 10:08am

Dude you said it well! Hit it right on the head. I too treasure my Grandfathers hand tools especially his Chisel. 

Take food back from the corporations and back into our back yards.

Our social revolution is our new Victory Garden. Alas our is Aquaponics and can be done anywhere. Feed your family first then your neighbors then your village then the world.

Wholesome food can heal all even the Earth.

Comment by Earl ward on February 21, 2011 at 7:28am

Here Here could not agree more!

Comment by Kobus Jooste on February 21, 2011 at 3:10am
I must say that I dislike most things about cities.  Nice thing about Africa is that we do not lack for space. As soon as my kids are out of school I'd likely head for some rural backwater that allows me to take care of myself without having to see the pollution or hear the noise of 1 million people shoved into a small space.
Comment by Eric Warwick on February 21, 2011 at 12:29am
Exactly Kobus, but I believe in the centralization of people (i.e.:cities) because, people  don't take up as much arable land. However I also like the addition of urban farms feeding the masses of the city. here is what I'm talking about. This of course is large scale; growing power and sweetwater organics also are great examples.
Comment by Kobus Jooste on February 20, 2011 at 11:48pm
Eric, you are correct that I describe a world from the middle class up, because it is the only one I am capable of describing.  I grew up in an academic / professional family.  My immediate family (parents, brother, me and our wifes) hold 20 tertiary level qualifications between the 6 of us.  At some point or another all of us were employed at universities. I grew up in a very nicely planned neighbourhood though, where short of food production, everything was housed within walking distance.  basic shops, and everything from my pre-primary school to University.  I think we should return to this model, and add food production.  miles and miles of concrete does nobody any good and it is in the middle and upper classes where the most wastage and conspicuous consumption is occurring.  At the same time, there is no attempt being made to safeguard basic life needs in these areas.  Lower income groups also have food security needs, but I do not percieve their lifestyles as being as wasteful as the richer people.  They struggle with food prices much more than the fancy folk, and their toil is for survival, not toys, making that gap between "us" and "them" grow so much bigger every year.  As they typically rent and do not own, I believe that they do not have the same option for self-production than what property owners have, and therefore the need for community based developments such as growing power.
Comment by Harold Sukhbir on February 20, 2011 at 5:00pm
Kobus you have spoken truthfully, i enjoyed reading it. You put a lot of what i feel into words. Ap created this shift in my outlook and intention in life. It is teaching me everyday of what is important and how and what to think on a daily basis and i feel gratitude for this.
Comment by Sahib Punjabi on February 20, 2011 at 3:52pm

Again a masterpiece...long read but very well written...from the heart :-)


God bless

Comment by Eric Warwick on February 20, 2011 at 3:16pm
Yes, this is exactly what I wanted you to elaborate on, but with your country that might have been the case; in my country that has been the case since the 50's. Also your message of equality in the era you came from... I think that you were just thinking of differences from the middle class up. Great post!

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