Aquaponics and traditional farming are both means of food production. The latter is an old yet commonly practiced way, while the former offers a new and revolutionary methodology to manufacture nutritious foods. Although they differ in many areas, the significant distinction is how these two approaches conserve and preserve our natural resources.
What is traditional farming?
Traditional agriculture or farming is an antique style of farming that solely relies on our planet's natural resources. Plants are grown in the soil here, and they are nourished by direct sunlight and water. Farmers often use chemicals like fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides to supplement their crops to increase their health and prevent sickness.
What are the pros and cons of traditional farming?
The old way of growing crops has its own set of advantages and disadvantages which have emerged in the past centuries. Here is a short list of them:
- Low costings but high gains: According to farmers who follow it, one of the advantages of conventional farming is the lower cost of doing so. Traditional farmers can plant their crops over a more extensive land area, allowing them to sell at a higher price when demand is high. Furthermore, because they choose farmlands to grow their products, they may produce at reduced costs and profit margins, making conventional farming a profitable strategy.
- Offers more job opportunities: Arguably, traditional agriculture provides various ways to benefit the working class. Because farmers can use larger farmland areas, potential farmworkers will have an easier time finding work in the fields. Other work options include delivery truck drivers, laborers, and helpers. These are in addition to the sales opportunities for fertilizer manufacturers and producers.
- Increase in food production: Farmers will be able to produce more crops and, as a result, meet the increased demand for food because conventional farming has low production costs.
- Use of pesticides: Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are utilized and sprayed on the crops, which is one of the disadvantages of conventional farming. Synthetic pesticides commonly employed in traditional agriculture are known as traditional pesticides. Biopesticides and antimicrobial pesticides are not included in the active ingredients of traditional pesticides because they are often produced artificially. These dangerous chemicals can get into crops, and when animals and humans eat them, they are exposed to health concerns associated with synthetic chemicals.
- Danger to the environment: Agriculture is responsible for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are causing climate change, accounting for 17 percent of GHG emissions directly from agricultural activities and another 7-14 percent from land-use changes. Nitrous oxide emissions from soils, fertilizers, manure, and urine from grazing animals and methane production by ruminant animals and paddy rice agriculture are the most significant direct agricultural GHG emissions. Both of these gases have a much higher potential for global warming than carbon dioxide.
What is aquaponics?
Aquaponics is a food production system that mimics a natural ecosystem by combining aquaculture and hydroponics. The food introduced for the fish serves as the system's input in aquaponics. As fish consume and metabolize this material, urine and feces are produced, both high in ammonia and large quantities harmful to plants and fish.
After that, the ammonia-rich water passes from the fish tank into a biofilter, together with un-eaten food and decomposing plant materials. Beneficial bacteria then break everything down into organic nutrient solutions (nitrogen-rich) for growing vegetables.
What are the pros and cons of aquaponics?
Like traditional farming, aquaponics' methodology of cultivating plants and animals has its inherent upside and downside. Here are some of them:
- In aquaponics, you are using two proven ways of producing healthy foods from a single nitrogen source.
- Because aquaponics does not require soil, it is immune to soil-borne infections.
- Aquaponics does not necessitate the use of fertilizers or pesticides.
- Aquaponics can be employed in non-arable environments, including deserts, deteriorated soil, and salty, sandy islands. You just need an open space such as abandoned warehouses, and you are good to go.
- Aquaponics produces very little waste because it is based on nature's cyclic method.
- You have to closely monitor your system's water quality, such as the pH range and water temperature, because this significantly contributes to the well-being of the fish and plants.
- You need to have an uninterrupted electricity supply, especially if you are using water pumps to aerate your water.
- Farmers must understand how to grow crops and how fish and bacteria work to be successful. In addition, technical expertise in plumbing or electrical is required.
- A list of fish and plants cannot be used for the aquaponics setups. Saltwater fish and annual crops are some examples that are incompatible with aquaponics.
How is aquaponics better than traditional farming?
Arguably, aquaponics offers many advantages compared with the old method of growing plants.
- Plant area: While traditional farming requires rich soil and water, an aquaponic system can be put up practically anywhere. Conventional farms are usually found outside of cities, where the majority of the population lives. Even in the city, aquaponics farms can be built. This situation will save a significant amount of time and fuel when transporting goods. Aquaponics also allows for the creation of a suitable atmosphere for plants.
- Care and maintenance: In conventional agriculture, you have to till the soil, pull the weeds, spray fertilizers, and water the plants. Aquaponics removes the need for these operations because water serves as a substitute for soil. Weeds have no place to grow in the absence of a soil medium. There is no need for fertilizer because plants feed on fish feces. Harvesting plants in an aquaponic system is also easier.
- Water conservation: Traditional farming consumes 90 percent more water than aquaponics. In a closed-loop system, water and nutrients are recycled, conserving water. There is no toxic fertilizer that makes its way into the watershed. Farms must use many fertilizers to maintain nutrient-rich soil; these surplus fertilizers eventually end up in rivers, where they cause a slew of detrimental side effects.
Traditional farming has been with us for ages, and many are still using it to supply our world with the food we need. However, its drastic impact to our environment is something that we cannot just set aside. At some point, we need to find an alternative means of growing foods. Enter aquaponics which is a safe and sustainable means of farming and must be explored by farmers. Through this article, I was able to show the potential of aquaponics to preserve our ecology and provide us with body-nourishing foods. If there is something I want to impress, it is this fact about aquaponics: Aquaponics farming systems are environmentally benign and sustainable alternatives to conventional agriculture.