Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

For the photo competition, we were asked to select up to five different pictures from members that we believed represents the future of aquaponics.  This got my head going, and I eventually selected some pictures that represented the following trends:

  • Small home aquarium units
  • DIY home systems
  • Home-based or smaller scale commercial systems
  • A vertical system
  • A hybrid design unit (not my own )


These are the directions that I believe aquaponics will developed, and largely because of environmental pressures of the human kind.  In biological sciences, we often make the statement that environmental pressures over a long period of time sculpts a species’ development.  Tall trees are a great food source if you are the only one that can get to it, so we end up with a giraffe.  That kind of thing.  The pressures that I perceive bearing down on the human race is space, water, and cost of resources to say but only a few.  Variable climates are wreaking havoc with established large-scale commercial farming, which, in turn is seriously damaging aquatic and coastal habitats.  In my area, fish catches have dwindled so far that the local penguin rehab centre (trying to save the last 5 – 10% of what was once one of the largest breeding colonies in the world) has to get their fish from other fishing areas hundreds of kilometers away.


The price of fresh fruit and processed vegetables in my town has taken to rising rapidly while in tandem, the quality is plummeting.  Food costs three times as much as only a few seasons ago.  Part of this production stress is materials costs, big business behaviour and regulatory costs, however, which makes me think that any person trying to produce crops on a large scale aquaponically might just end up in the same predicament as all the other large producers.  Large, so by the way for me, is not just one or two tunnels.  I still consider that a small commercial operation.  I think we are going to be driven towards trying to do what we can with what we have, hence the different scenarios up at the beginning of this post.  I think home based production is going to become extremely important. To achieve that though, I think there will be some shifts towards a slightly different way of doing things.  In stead of having scaled down versions of commercial raft systems or a media-bed configuration, I think we will see a diversification in growing environments in relation to people’s desires to try and grow a “complete basket” in their system.  Sure, people can club together in local growing groups and exchange, but you need a high density of growers to make that happen.  Stuff will have to be cheap and simple too.  People that turn to own production are not just the wealthy health conscious types but also those trying desperately to stretch their money.  For this reason I favoured a DIY unit over a kit.  Kits are nice, but apart from the belief that I have that hybrid systems will become commonplace, I think most kit suppliers at this point are small businesses and as such, cannot offer really cheap materials to compete with DIY recycling yet.


There are already many people in the forum that combine aquaponic production with other forms of small-scale agriculture such as poultry farming.  I think this trend will expand as we start taking care more and more of our own food needs.  In the South African scenario, “old” housing was so centred around home production that most plots were allocated with the understanding that people will have fruit trees and vegetable gardens.  I am lucky to have one of those – 3 times the size of modern plots designed to just house a battery human as he/she scoffs down a meal before running off to do perpetual work to feed the machine.  I quietly hope that this lifestyle will slowly sink as well.  The aquaponic lifestyle is one of whole food, good food, slow food.  A slow life goes so very well with that, but we have imprisoned ourselves into a scurry for more.


To conclude, therefore I would like to hope that aquaponics has a future role to play in bringing some sanity back to our lifestyles.  Slow food causing a “slow life” mentality.  I really think we are chasing our dooms with all this modern multitasking rubbish.  I’m all for slowing down and am hoping that many more people feel the same.  Then, the future of aquaponics can be as commonplace as being a small to large part of everyone’s lives, like our vegetable patches used to be 40 years ago, before the world went mad.

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Comment by Eric Warwick on February 19, 2011 at 12:30am
Kobus, the problem is I don't know exactly what I want you to elaborate on, that is the problem. Maybe it was something you stated/implied in the first and second paragraph about the greater issue that been here since the invention of agriculture. In any case I'm sure I am just imagining things. Good luck in spreading the addictive pleasure of growing your own food.
Comment by Kobus Jooste on February 18, 2011 at 10:32pm

Eric - can you please tell me which thought in there you would like me to expand - I have too many a day and need to simmer on any specific one if there is interest!


Harold, what bothers me about modern society is that it has become so removed from the resources it consumes that ordinary and even not so ordinary people have no idea of the status of the resources.  It is like plastic money - easier spent than taking a wad of cash and handing it over.  We will eat the last of something before the resource sellers admit that it was the last one, and then the marketers will just jump in and smooth things over.  In our area's marine fisheries, species that was considered "discard" in 2000 is now "catch of the day".  There was no moment of reflection on the decimation of the reef fish standing stocks, just a swift shift to purse-seine species, which saw the demise of the penguins.  As the penguins are slowly starving on an island within sight of Port Elizabeth but far enough away to be ignored, it is as if it is not happening.  We should get closer to our food, water and power again so that we can develop a sense of the limitations facing humans

Comment by Harold Sukhbir on February 18, 2011 at 9:19pm
All the human movement around the world is a mad rush to consume physical resources. Day in day out the same movement. Resources are unfortunately limited while the population, the consumers of physical resources, are expanding exponentially, we are reckless in our pursuit for survival. We will become aware of our recklessness when resources start to dwindle, when it becomes apparent to us that we are threatening our own survival and then we may become conservative, to some this awareness may come sooner to others it will come later but it will come to all of us one day. One method of conservation is called BackYard Aquaponics.
Comment by Eric Warwick on February 18, 2011 at 5:31pm
Kobus, can you expand a little on your thinking; I think you were on to something larger and stopped. However the last paragraph is thought provoking. (in the sense of how are we going to get short attention span people to grow their own food) In any case, great blog post! (insert smiling emotocon)
Comment by Adam Shivers on February 18, 2011 at 6:46am

yes!!!!!! most people are trying to take small steps to big things (5 easy steps to a...) I am taking large strides towards anything small! Take care of you and your own and don't regulate others.

I feel that God told me to quit my job and do this (and other things you spoke of -poultry etc.) and I don't know what is next but it isn't the race to feed the machine anymore!

Comment by Sahib Punjabi on February 18, 2011 at 6:29am

Very good post Kobus :-)


I too am tending to reflect similar views. I have always been a firm believer of "Small is Beautiful", hate the idea of having to follow the rule "only this way or the highway", thus I am rather a "maverick" and do not mind experimenting (not necessarily like you "push to the limit"), and mixing ideas...after all, I can say in the end ;I did it my way" :-)   So being able to grow a variety of food and fruits without all the harmful add ons will help keep the sanity in my life.


As for Commercial Aquaponics...again it is all what defines as "Commercial". Size is just not the only criteria. Given that the "foot-print" of Aquaponics is considerably smaller than a conventional farm, and that Vertical farming can be incorporated in to the growing style, a 4000 sq foot growing space farm would be able to provide a good income for a family depending upon what is grown and where it is located. I believe that Aquaponics is ideally suited to "Micro to Small Scale Commercial Farming"...especially that it aims to be sustainable and provide fresh food... "Grown Locally...Grown Naturally"


Let's see what other Aquapons have to say :-)


God bless


PS...Great photos of your "Micro Aquaponic Farm" and Koi :-)


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