Aquaponics is the first and foremost form of specialized agriculture. It draws its roots from two forms of agricultural practices, namely aquaculture and hydroponics. Taking the best of both worlds, Aquaponics is a uniquely advantageous cultivation system that can work with minimal external inputs.
There have been instances in the Aztec History, where they had a mechanism called “Chinampas” which closely relates to the working principle of Aquaponics. Multiple types of crops were planted on rafts that would float in ponds. The ponds rich with aquatic life would be enriched naturally by the aquatic waste and would be a source of rich nutrients for the plants on the rafts.
The current day Aquaponics system can be traced to the works of Mark McMurtyand Professor Doug Sanders who built the first Aquaponics system that formed a self-contained loop system. Their system used fish to refuse to irrigate small crops of Tomatoes and Cucumber. This was as early as the 1980s. A decade later Tom and Paula Speraneo integrated gravel beds for cultivating the produce and incorporated Hydroponics into the mix.
Current day Aquaponics system can be traced to the works of Mark McMurtyand Professor Doug Sanders who built the first Aquaponics system that formed a self-contained loop system.Their system used fish refuse to irrigate small crops of Tomatoes and Cucumber. This was as early as the 1980s. A decade later Tom and Paula Speraneo integrated gravel beds for cultivating the produce and incorporated Hydroponics into the mix.
How does it work?
Aquaponics is the combination of 2 systems Aquaculture & Hydroponics. The fishes are grown in specialized tanks, ponds or structures (generally not too large).In the course of time, these fish foul the water with ammonia wastes, which has to be periodically filtered out to maintain water pH levels. Excess ammonia is toxic to the fishes. The water with high concentrations of Ammonia is then fed into a system with naturally occurring bacteria like Nitrobacter*and Nitrosomonas**which are instrumental in converting the ammonia into nitrites (by Nitrosomonas) and thence to useful Nitrates (by Nitrobacter). These can be then easily absorbed by plants. This water is then fed into the plant beds which uses a hydroponic system in which plants are grown in substrates like gravel, clay, etc. which are placed on water-rich systems. That is the roots, wrapped around the substrate medium, have ready access to this nitrate-rich water.
The roots can readily take in the nitrates; this helps the plant grow healthier and faster. Thus through the intake, these plants have another role as filtering agents for the water. The water then becomes cleaner and then is feedback into the aquaculture system.