Hey, I’m Devin Solkov. Four years ago I had coffee. Not for the first time, not even for the twelfth time. But this coffee opened my eyes to a different world. No, it wasn’t the first time I tried pour over, or even Blue Bottle. In fact, the reason I even mention coffee is to contextualize a conversation which would define the next chapter of my life. I remember the day well. It was mid-July, the time was 4:35 pm, across from me sat the intelligent and witty Jacob.
We were both sixteen years old, full of optimism, joy and most of all, untapped creative intelligence. As I sat sipping my specialty nutmeg latte, Jacob planted in my head the incredible tale of a garden so futuristic and amazing it seemed impossible at the time. This garden could grow produce in half the time as the one in my grandma’s yard can.
It could grow twice as much food in half the area, did it without soil, and used only 10 percent of the water as a traditional in-ground garden would use. Best yet, not only could the tender of this future-garden eat delicious home-grown veggies on a daily basis, he could also enjoy the health benefits of fresh, local protein free of those nasty GMOs and pesticides . This protein is delivered in the form of scrumptious, hearty fish.
That’s right, fish. The story Jacob was telling me was of the Aquaponic Garden he and his father had built in their side yard that summer. If you are like I was then, you probably read the word “Aquaponics,” with a semi-befuddled look on your face. At the time, I couldn’t even comprehend how such a process could work.
Fast-forward four years to now. I now understand that Aquaponic Gardening combines the industrial rising of fish known as Aquaculture and the clay media-based produce growing of Hydroponics. In these two systems, Jacob explained there are major issues which make neither viable option for the average Joe trying to eat a healthy, home-grown meal.
In Aquaculture, expensive filters clean both the poop and the nitrates from the water. Nitrates accumulate as a result of the fish respiration. Unfortunately, in the event of a power failure, all of the fish can die overnight.
In Hydroponics, nutrients must be added to a water reservoir to provide the plants with the stuff they need. These nutrients accumulate overtime and affect the plants’ ability to grow. Therefore, on a semi-frequent basis, hydroponic farmers need to dump this water, which is full of chemicals and dangerous to the environment, on top of being wasteful of this precious natural resource (potable water).
Aquaponic gardening beautifully addresses both of these problems. Nitrate, which is toxic to fish in high levels, is something which plants thrive on. In an Aquaponic Garden, the water reservoir is the fish tank. Water is pumped into a grow bed filled with clay media pellets.
A Simple Grow Bed
Here the plants clean it before returning it to the fish. Thus, fish are grown symbiotically with plants in a closed-loop environment where little to no water is wasted.
Learning this four years ago sent my mind abuzz with all of the possibilities of Aquaponic Gardening. Aquaponic Gardening is simple enough to be accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world, and in my mind, can really be something which reconnects people to their food. Above that, here is a system which could end world hunger.
Let’s face it; the food system in this country is not only extremely inefficient in terms of water and labor, but also incredibly wasteful. 85 percent of the corn grown in America is not digestible by humans. It feeds cattle. Our addiction to meat causes annually more pollution than all of the fossil fuel based transportation in the entire country. That’s a sobering fact.
Imagine a world where everyone not only had enough to eat, but the food they ate is actually health, and is grown in their own homes. This is what I’m proposing can be done with Aquaponics. This is the very first step toward the ushering in of a new age in human evolution; an age where every single living being is treated with integrity, and where all humans have the basics of life met in a sustainable, healthful way.
This isn’t just my first step. This is our first step. All of us are taking this step together.
This blog will catalog my journey, which hopefully will serve as a model of something each of us can do to move towards a sustainable future for humanity. To all of those reading this, know there is hope for the world, all is not lost; it’s just a matter of taking the first step! Stay tuned for weekly updates of my Aquaponic journey.