How Aquaponic Technology Could Change the Future of Agriculture (Aquaponic Expert Shares Insights)

Aquaponic Technology and Agricultural history

Aquaponic Technology has advanced considerably in the past 40 years. It has come a long way since humble beginnings as part of Aztec and Asian cultures. The ability to comprehend farming vegetables with fish could not have arisen without many generations of peoples first laying the groundwork.

In 10,000 BCE, humans were finding ways to grow and harvest food. Five-thousand years later, and irrigation revolutionized how Mesopotamian culture approached agriculture, contributing to the rise of cities. Agricultural systems have determined the prosperity of villages, cities, and civilizations as they rose to power and disappeared into history. Agriculture and its practises have been shared, perfected, reimagined, and passed down from peoples to peoples, and from civilization to civilization.

Plowing with a yoke and cattle in Ancient Egypt. 1200 BC

From the Stone Age to the Bronze Age to the Space Age, agriculture is and always will be at the foundation of culture. Today, agriculture is a corner-stone in a global village; a global economy; a global civilization. In many ways, cultures are shockingly different; however, agriculture stands as a constant across the globe – pushing us forward and uniting us.

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Plowing a field by tractor. 1921

The modern era pushed agriculture and its technologies to develop more rapidly in the past three hundred years than it had in the ten-thousand years that came before it. The massive expansion of industrialized agriculture allowed the massive expansion of the human race across the globe. More efficient farming alleviated farmers of their jobs and pushed them to find work in cities, which gave rise to sprawling city landscapes that needed more food to sustain its inhabitants. Monolithic cities rose along-side monolithic farms, each in a race to accommodate the other. The current system is unsustainable.

Image source: thefarmersdaughterusa.com

As cities grow, the land needed to grow the food to sustain them is swallowed up. Agriculture has historically found ways to adapt to the requirements of those who rely on it; that is, until the demands of those who rely on it become too great. How will we feed a global population of nine-billion people?

How can we avoid repeating the mistakes made by ancient civilizations that have faded into history? The short answer is: by using innovative agricultural technologies and practises that take up less space and grow more food to maximize food output from smaller localized areas. Aquaponic systems are increasingly getting better at doing just that.

Aztecs grew plants on rafts called chinampa. Image source: milkwood.net

Aquaponics is not a new agricultural practice. Aztec and Chinese cultures had been raising fish with plants thousands of years ago. However, it was only innovated to be used commercially in the 1970s. Since then, aquaponic systems have grown more popular, and their sustainability has started to be taken seriously in agricultural and environmental spheres. When done right, an aquaponic system wastes almost no water while markedly producing more food than traditional growing methods. Check out this awesome blog if you want to know more.

Aquaponic Technology Q & A

Garden City Aquaponics Inc. was created as a response to increasing food insecurity. Steve McArthur, founding partner and CTO, struggled with standing idly by as he watched a growing need for change in agriculture. Steve and Todd Leveque started Garden City Aquaponics Inc. with a goal to use Steve’s knowledge in physics, statistics, computer science, geology, and mechanical engineering, and Todd’s experience in food production in order to help push aquaponics and its technologies to their max potential. McArthur has a wealth of knowledge about aquaponic must-haves, so I asked him to answer a few questions about aquaponics technology. 

Steve McArthur, Garden City Aquaponics Inc. Chief Technology Officer.

What Technology would you say is a must-have for aquaponic systems?

“You have to be able to control the climate, so you will need: water heaters or coolers, air heaters or coolers, dehumidifiers, fans and ventilation, and some way to monitor pH, water levels, air temperature, humidity, and water temperature.

You will need a filtration system, such as a radial flow settler or a drum filter, a bio-filter, and some way to manage solid waste like a bio-digester.

You’ll need lights, and there are a lot of different kinds that will work. Some work better in certain applications than others, depending on what crop you’re interested in growing – flowering plants require a different spectral output than lettuce, for example.

Of course, you will also need a closed-loop plumbing system, including a high output pump to keep your water moving from the fish tanks, through the filtration system, to the plants and then back.”

What are three favourite technologies that Garden City Aquaponics Inc. uses in its facility?

“Garden City Aquaponics partnered with the University of Victoria to work with co-op students in order to develop technologies. An electrical-engineering student developed a sensor system that monitors the aquaponic system and alerts us if parts of the system need attention.

Living Planet Solutions had developed a bio-digester for making compost tea, and Garden City Aquaponics worked with them to co-develop a bio-digester system that manages the solid waste from our fish. The bio-digester further increases the sustainability of our aquaponic systems.

Lighting systems can greatly influence the productivity of an aquaponic system. Over the past three years, we have had the pleasure of working with eight different lighting companies and testing their products in an aquaponic setting. However, PhotoBio lights have been the most exciting lighting technology for us. For growing leafy greens, microgreens, and herbs, we have found PhotoBio lights that we got from Hydrofarm to be super effective. We are also excited to be testing Agnetix’s liquid-cooled LEDs, as well as a new lighting technology from Venntis Technologies soon.”

Any lighting recommendations?

“Sunblaster LEDs are good, both the 64k spectrum and 27k spectrum. They are great for growing microgreens and non-flowering plants.

There’s nothing wrong with conventional lighting (ceramic metal halide). Especially for fruiting crops. Don’t use fluorescent lighting though.

Can you think of interesting technology that other aquaponic growers are using?

“Some aquaponic companies are using ultraviolet, ozone, and hydroxyl technologies to clean their water and purge their fish. I think that is really cool.

Other companies are using innovative control systems that allow you to manage the facility from your phone. We just found technology from growingwithatom.com that we want to incorporate into our facility to test at scale.”

What technology should design clients expect to see in your designs?

 “Well, it’s subjective. It depends on a lot of different design choices that we will talk about more next week.

If clients don’t need an environmental control system, then they need a monitoring system at the very least. Automatic fish feeders are a good option, depending on how connected the client wants to be with raising the fish. I like to feed ours by hand. There will be solids filtration and bio-digestion systems, and tested lighting systems to suit their needs.

As we work through our four design phases, the technological demands of an aquaponics facility will become clear. The technological needs of a facility will be presented in our preliminary study phase.

There really are a lot of options, we find the best ones for the client’s needs.”

Closing Thoughts

When it comes to feeding a growing population in increasingly uncertain environments, Aquaponic systems are a great choice. The agricultural technologies that are at the foundation of modern aquaponics allow gardeners and farmers to grow bountiful crops with minimal resources added, regardless of the climate. Alternative energy sources further reduce costs and carbon footprint while growing food. When it comes to innovative agricultural technology that does the job of growing food best in a rapidly changing climate, Garden City Aquaponics Inc. has the solution for you.

4 thoughts on “How Aquaponic Technology Could Change the Future of Agriculture (Aquaponic Expert Shares Insights)

  1. Pingback: How are you going to grow that food? Aquaponics of course! - Garden City Aquaponics Inc.

    1. gardencityaquaponics Post author

      Hello Hector,

      We are glad to see that you are interested in long distance courses about aquaponics. We would like to be able to accommodate you, but we are currently not offering any formal online courses. Any education or training would happen at the time of completion of the aquaponic facility during the fourth phase of our design build and consulting. Please feel free to contact us through our “contact us” page if you are interested in talking more about our consulting fees. This may be a good way to receive informal education/training/and advice.

      Best wishes,
      Garden City Aquaponics Inc.

      Reply

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