Hydroponic culture has become a popular term coined by the farming community, but often we may confuse its cousin, aquaponic, for being its twin.
Although not yet as common as hydroponics, in Malaysia it is gaining strength as an alternative method of soilless cultivation. In short, aquaponics is a subset of hydroponics that is used aquaculture, which refers to plants and fish raised in water to provide nutrients to plants.
Behind the science of aquaponics
For an update, hydroponics is a method of growing that replaces soil with nutrient-rich water. These nutrients include magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and other “plant foods” that your crops need to thrive.
To create a hydroponic system, you’ll need to invest in fresh water, oxygen, root support (such as coconut fiber or rock wool), nutrients, and light.
He appeal to use this method of farming compared to conventional soil-based ones is that you can grow crops virtually anywhere while reducing the risk of disease, limiting the resources needed to set up the system and also helping the plants to mature faster , which leads to higher yields.
Aquaponics integrates all of this into its growing system, with the addition of fish and other aquatic animals and plants to the water.
The science behind it is pretty simple: it becomes fish excretion nutrients for crops, as it has nitrogen (in the form of ammonia), phosphorus and potassium, among other nutrients your crops need, as mentioned. They replace formulated nutrient-rich water.
When plants take in these nutrients, they simultaneously clean the water so that the fish can stay healthy. While water filters are not necessary for aquaponics, as it is a fairly self-sustaining system, adding a filter can improve the health of your fish and plants.
Can this be replicated at home?
“Aquaponics really requires very little maintenance, as all you need are the right fish to be raised, the space to build your farm, an efficient water filter system and a balanced water chemistry,” he said. share Dr. Granja2Fork with Vulcan Post. Farm2Fork is a supplier of aquaponic hardware for various farms.
Tilapia is recommended for beginners who want to try aquaponic farming, as they are one of the toughest fish that can survive a wide range of water conditions and require minimal care. Plus, they’re delicious (yes, you can food your aquaponic fish if it is an edible species, unlike koi or goldfish).
In fact, you can even use lobster or prawns for aquaponics, such as is shown for this Klang farm, which provides an aquaponic system and live locusts to accompany it.
Of course, even the toughest fish can only stand so much, so Dr. Richard shared that having a proper water filtration system can help plants disinfect the reservoir to provide a healthier environment for the system. and make maintenance less complicated as well.
A great initial investment
Based on Farm2Fork packages, if you want to grow for your own consumption, it will be approximately RM 20,800 for a setup. This setup will take up about 60 square feet and can produce about 40 kg of vegetables each month.
While, if you want to grow commercially, it will cost about 57,800 RM, which occupies 300 square feet and can produce up to 190 kg per month. Farm2Fork’s largest commercial package, which occupies 1,000 square feet, costs RM 148,800 and can produce up to 730 kg of vegetables a month.
There are other local suppliers of aquaponic systems such as VIGIL i Aquaponics growing supplies, but Farm2Fork differs in that it provides tools and settings for you, while the other two require you to hire an installer.
As for the monthly costs, an aquaponic farmer from Cheras (E-Farm) previously shared with The star that their monthly electricity and water bills are RM500 and RM15 respectively depending on their single pump system.
Advantages of using aquaponics
One of the appeals mentioned is that it is a self-sustaining system that sees it as almost an ecosystem of its own. Hydroponics is a more tedious system compared to why you need it exchange your nutrient water solution every 2-3 weeks to maintain an optimal pH and nutrient levels for your plants.
Similar to hydroponics, the use of aquaponics 90% less water compared to soil gardening, as it recycles water through plants and fish tank. The plants that are grown are also organic, as aquaponic systems are installed in a controlled environment and the use of pesticides is not recommended, as they are harmful to fish. Plus, you not necessary to get lighting equipment to grow your crops if you also have outdoor space.
Although, unlike hydroponics, aquaponics allows you to grow several vegetables at once and Farm2Fork claims that their technology can help you grow up to 10 varieties of vegetables in the same space.
Disadvantages of aquaponics
Currently, there are no conclusive study on which water system (hydroponic and aquaponic) translates into higher performance, as it all boils down to the way you manage your systems.
With aquaponics, you also need to consider the costs of the fish. You will have to do it make sure they feed and invest in light protection for fish tanks to prevent algae from growing and competing for nutrients with crops or clogging pipes.
If you are not a patient, the initial setup for aquaponics may not be your cup of tea as you need it. set the fish and let the water cycle before adding the plants. Cycling through the water means letting the activity of the bacteria occur first and this can take a long time to get there. 4-6 weeks depending on the water temperature.
The aquaponic scene in Malaysia
Almost anything can be grown with aquaponics; some common crops that Malaysians grow are chives, Chinese cabbage, peppers, lettuce, bitter gourd, ginger, mangoes and even edamame and Japanese rock melons.
At the local level, the business landscape of aquaponics is more centered regarding the provider of things and training on how to install aquaponics in your home.
To help you assess the growing demand for aquaponics, Dr. Richard shared with Vulcan Post that they were able to set up 60 farm units in Malaysia and abroad in countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, Slovenia and the United States since inception 2 years ago.
But getting to where they are today requires an initial investment of RM300K for research along with continuous failures for 10 months. “So far, we have invested more than 1.5 million RM over the past 24 months in hardware development and continuous investment,” he revealed.
Not much research has been done on the profitability of commercial aquaponics abroad, let alone locally. The general consensus is that profitability will only be achieved when operations are at on a large scale. For urban farmers, space can be a limitation.
Despite this, it remains a solution with environmental and cost advantages to ensure food security. This is because global food production is already facing countless problems such as climate change, urbanization and more, making controlled and more efficient agricultural methods of aquaponics (and hydroponics) be a welcome solution.
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Simply put, aquaponics is a versatile cultivation method. But, like everything else, it has its pros and cons depending on how you want to operate it and what it is for.
|Advantages of aquaponics||Disadvantages of aquaponics|
|Self-supporting system (you can be quite practical)||It requires a lot of space|
|It uses 90% less water than gardening||Another living thing that needs to be cared for (to some extent): fish|
|Multiple crop system (several vegetables can be grown at once)||It is necessary to wait to adapt the fish to the environment before starting to grow, which can take more than a month|
|Organic vegetables (pesticides are not recommended as it is bad for fish)||Expensive initial investment|
- You can find more information about Farm2Fork here.
- You can read other agritech articles we have written here.
Featured Image Credit: Dr. Richard Ng, founder of Farm2Fork