When it comes to growing nutrient-dense plant-based foods, aquaponics does a fantastic job. These sustainable growing systems can easily produce a wide variety of organic and sustainable crops. And they can be built almost anywhere, including in your local community!
It is easy to head down to the store and grab a bag of lettuce, some tomatoes, or a packet of herbs without putting much thought into how those food items found their way into the store. If plants could talk, what kinds of stories would they tell? Some plants might tell tales about long and dangerous voyages of which many of their fellow veggies didn’t survive; on the other hand, some plants might tell stories about growing up just a few blocks away from you. When you really think about it, talking plants might do a great job at convincing people not to eat them, so let’s take a moment to appreciate plants for what they are: tasty inanimate flora that comes in all shapes, sizes,
Surely, not all vegetables are created equal, and that includes plants that are the same. What I mean is, the way that plants are grown matters. A fresh heirloom tomato grown in somebody’s self-fertilized garden during the middle of summer might be tastier and more nutritious than a tomato that was grown in the middle of winter in a hothouse one-thousand kilometers away. Scientists have noted a decline in the nutrient density of certain plants since the 1950’s as agriculture has shifted from local heirloom crops to giant mono-crops that endure lengthy transportation. A study by the University of Massachusetts found that some plant varieties had higher nutrient density than others. The study also found that soil fertility is a significant factor in determining a plant’s nutrient density.
The Aquaponic Solution
So what does this mean for aquaponics? Aquaponic systems are closed systems. Meaning that they develop and maintain extremely nutrient-rich water that is used to grow plants faster and at their maximum nutrient density. A well-tuned aquaponic system has consistent nutrient fertility that can produce nutrient-dense vegetables 365 days of the year. On top of that, aquaponic systems take up way less space than conventional methods. Aquaponic systems can be built to fit whatever size is available, which means that aquaponic farms can grow food close-to-or-within-the communities that they intend to feed. The added yield of nutrient-dense fish makes aquaponics a smart choice for feeding a family, or for feeding a city!
But what plants grow best in aquaponic systems and why?
There are a number of factors that affect plant choice – a big factor being the type of fish. Are you planning on raising warm water fish or cold water fish? We talk more about all this here.
Aquaponics Best Choices
According to Nelson and Pade, one of the most reputable aquaponics pioneers, almost any aquaponic system will do fine growing:
- leafy greens/lettuces
- pak choi
- swiss chard
- common house plants
Other Growing Options
However, if you are running a mature aquaponic system with a high fish to plant ratio, then it is possible to grow things like:
When There’s a Will There’s a Way
Nelson and Pade have even managed to grow:
- dwarf citrus trees
- dwarf pomegranate trees
- sweet corn
- edible flowers
The world is always changing. Conventional farming methods are fighting to keep their soils fertile enough to grow nutrient-dense plants. Chemical fertilizers are being used to keep up with agricultural demands; however, aquaponic farming can grow organic nutrient-dense fish and plants close to local communities every day of the year.
If plants could talk, what kinds of stories would they tell? Would they be worn and nutrient deficient? Would they have an accent? Maybe they would reminisce about growing up down the street without a care in the world – bathing in soft light with their roots dipped in calm nutrient-rich waters.