The first step toward a better understanding of aquaponics is to examine the ecology of all the species interacting with the system, including humans. We use ecology instead of environment, because it accounts for the symbiotic relationships between all the stakeholders in aquaponics rather than simply examining the physical conditions in which it operates.
Essentially in aquaponics, an ecosystem is created and maintained to balance the inputs and outputs of the fish, plants, and beneficial bacteria in order to provide food for us. Its efficiency lies in continuously recirculating the water and using the waste of one process as the input for another. As the water is circulated throughout the fish tank and growing area, the real workhorse making the system progress is the beneficial bacteria that break down the fish waste to food for the plants. These are the same bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle in countless other ecosystems on the planet. The plants in turn, absorb the nutrients and filter the water for the fish. This lends itself to the two major benefits of aquaponics: efficient use of water and growing without a high quality soil.
Balancing the ratios of water to fish to plants is extremely important in maintaining the health of the system. All of the species are equally important and all are interdependent on each other. Balance is crucial in any ecosystem, because there is always competition for the same resources and there are limits to those resources. When these are exceeded and the system is out of balance, diseases are more prevalent, fish die, and plants are malnourished.
So how does this fit our model? Let’s simply look at our own relationship and apply our personal values to the food system at all levels: global, national, and local. Where is our food coming from? Is it sold at a fair price for both producer and consumer? Can the current methods be continued for the next generation? Our modern lifestyle depends on the health of multiple ecosystems, which are being stretched past their limits. Aquaponics is an alternative solution that we think can heal these relationships and supplement our food supply. One of the goals of Project Haiti is to do just that in a country that has suffered from severely damaged ecosystems due to poor natural resource management.
Be sure to check in for the next post exploring some of the economic aspects of aquaponics.
Over the past two years, Ecofficiency.org has included aquaponics as one of its core programs. We have built systems in Haiti, The Bahamas, Baja California, and several California schools. There is no doubt that it is an increasingly popular growing method due to its sustainability, novelty, and the desire to reconnect with our food.
During the next several weeks we will be exploring why aquaponics works so well with the Ecofficiency model. If you want to understand how the physical system works, click here. The model is explained in our 15 page philosophy that can be found on our website, which I am sure everybody has read and fully understands. (insert sarcasm) The model is a three-part Venn diagram, with each section representing a major component: Ecology, Economy, and Equity. The basic model is used by many people to help establish structure to sustainable decision-making and planning. What sets Ecofficiency.org apart is our focus on the relationships between the main components:
Sustainable Natural Resource Management + Cultural Diversity and Appreciation + Environmental Justice = A prosperous and peaceful world that we all want to live in
We’ll start with the main components then transition to the relationships to better understand how aquaponics can satisfy each section. Stay posted for the first article on Ecology in the next few days.
Positively Delicious OC is a 4-day event series focused on sustainable food in Orange County. Produced by The Positive Plate, in collaboration with OC Food Access Coalition, Slow Food OC, and A Harvest of Hope, the goal of Positively Delicious OC is to showcase the wonderful food community we have in our backyard, and bring much needed attention to important food related issues to OC residents.
For tickets and more details, visit the Positively Delicious OC website.
During our last trip to Haiti, we had the pleasure of meeting Markendy Desomeau, a Haitian with a passion for helping his country make changes with a positive and lasting impact.
We met Markendy, who has a Master’s Degree in Animal Husbandry, deep in the mountains of Pays Pourri, where we have been distributing water filters, and offering cholera education classes. He was an interpreter for a mobile medical clinic that we had linked up with…he speaks Creole, French, Spanish, and English quite well. I was immediately impressed with his intelligence, work ethic, and genuine desire to help people less fortunate than himself.
Markendy immediately expressed an interest in coming to the US to earn a PhD in sustainability related issues. Of course we would try our best to help him, but we also know how hard it can be to get someone into the US from a country as poor as Haiti. Let alone, position him to meet professors that he could possibly work with.
Well, two weeks ago, Markendy was named a UCI International Sustainability Fellow after spending a week on the UCI campus exchanging ideas with 70 Sustainability Fellows from 18 countries around the world! He was able to meet three different professors who all said they had an interest (no promises) in having Markendy work under them. Needless to say, Markendy was extremely excited about his visit, and we are so happy we could help him come to the US to study and meet potential professors to work with!
Being selected as one of their non-profit event partners, we spent the first week of July at the High Sierra Music Festival in Northern CA. After some last minute changes to the travel plans, we ended up packing our faithful Jetta with the entire mobile aquaponics system, new 55 gallon barrel water filtration system, educational materials, and camping supplies for a week! It was smooth sailing for 1200+ miles round trip!
The festival provided an opportunity to promote our Project Haiti and raise funds for our upcoming trip this October. Check out the photos below, and feel free to check out our Project Haiti website to learn more about how we work around the globe.