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Sustainable Ecosystems: Aquaponics and Hydroponics Growing Systems
New ways to grow food without soil
As our Earth heats up and severe climate extremes become the norm, the quest is on to find new ways to not only work with our dwindling resources but also to find new ways to create hydroponic and aquaponic growing systems that can be self-sustaining. Hydroponic growing is on the rise, as too is aquaponics, and one inventive company in the San Francisco Bay Area has married the two together in commercial systems that recycle and reuse water, fish and plants to create a living garden powered by the sun.
What is Hydroponics?
A hydroponics growing system simply put is "the art of growing plants without soil". The word hydroponic comes from Latin and means "working water". Now that is an interesting choice of words when one considers "art" being in the process. This implies creativity, which is exactly what hydroponics is all about : "Creating" an ecosystem without the use of soil. The most basic hydroponics systems are:
- The Wick system
- Water culture
- Ebb and flow (Flood and drain)
- Drip Systems (Recovery and non-recovery)
- N.F.T. (Nutrient film technique)
There are hundreds of variations of these types of sustainable hydroponic growing ecosystems, but all hydroponic methods are a variation (or combination) of these six.
What is Aquaponics?
Aquaponics is the newest farming technology which uses the symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. This teamwork approach combines using the waste materials of the plants which feed the fish while at the same time the waste of the fish is used to fertilize the plants and vegetables.
This is pretty much a self-sustaining eco and environmentally friendly system that works very well together. Aquaponics consists of 2 types of sustainable growing with:
- Hydroponics (plants)
- Aquacuture (water)
Inka Biospheric Systems new brainchild
In a new twist, one San Francisco based company, Inka Biospheric Systems, has united the science and technology of hydroponics and aquaponics with the art of fabrication to create water-wise and energy efficient vertical growing systems. These are not only self-sustaining ecosystems but also beautifully designed working pieces of art.
One of these systems, the Inka Suncurve™, is installed at Coyote Point Parks CuriOdyssey museum in San Mateo, California. My husband, 3 year old grandson and I visited the installation last week on a nippy San Francisco day. There is a circulating pond of large Koi fish with a arch behind it which has several different types of plants growing in the "Inka BioQuilt™" which is soil-less. Solar panels are attached at the top of the system along with wind turbines. It is a pretty amazing thing to watch as the whole system is totally self-sustaining, down to growing plants with no soil and feeding fish with the nutrients passed down from the plants.
Inkabio was founded in 2009 and their eco-beneficial projects and products are becoming become models of sustainability for the commercial, residential, educational and agricultural markets.
With severe weather on the rise, it's companies like this and other inventive creators that will hopefully get us into the next century with these innovative products as water becomes scarce and the need to recycle, re-use and re-invent becomes critical to our survival.
The use of hydroponics, aquaculture and aquaponics can also be done in your own home through do-it-yourself projects.
How to grow plants and vegetables using hydroponic and aquaponic plans can be found in both step-by-step instructions from both books and videos.