The Solution: Renewable Resources
An increasingly popular method of home-based gardening that is organic, uses no soil, uses minimal water, and grows up to four times faster than soil-based gardens is Aquaponics. In addition to growing certain garden crops, Aquaponics also incorporates growing certain freshwater fish and shrimp. The beauty of Aquaponics is that it can be scaled from a home-based system to a large business or community based one, utilizing the same principles. Aquaponics can be utilized using “tower” systems growing upwards, instead of outwards like conventional agriculture, thus being able to grow more in a smaller amount of space.
The Aquaponics Association provides the following definition for Aquaponics:
"Aquaponics is a synergistic growing technique in which fish and plants are grown together in the same systems. The fish waste feeds the growing plants using organic hydroponic techniques. The plants in turn, clean and filter the water that returns to the fish environment".
Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants together in a constructed, recirculating ecosystem utilizing natural bacteria cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. This is an environmentally friendly, natural food-growing method that harnesses the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) without the need to discard any water or filtrate or add chemical fertilizers.
There are numerous courses available that teach home based Aquaponics and there are even fewer that provide any type of formal education or accredited certification. The Aquaponics Institute of Technology is a pioneer in Aquaponics education that will provide basic and advanced home-based and business certification programs in addition to degree programs to answer the growing requirements for the future.
Enough food can be produced for the growing world population over 2015–2030 and beyond in an environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive way, but this will require significant changes in agricultural production (Godfrey et al., 2010; Pretty and Bharucha, 2014). With current food production reaching its limits, alternatives to conventional farming must be found. They will involve sustainable intensification of food production through a combination of innovative farming methods – including agroforestry, conservation agriculture, integrated farming, mixed crop and livestock systems and organic farming – accompanied by reduction of food waste and more equitable food distribution.
Not only is sustainable farming possible, but education plays a key role in the transition. Primary and secondary education can provide future farmers foundation skills as well as critical knowledge about sustainability challenges in agriculture. Vocational training and skills policies can bridge the gap between farmers and new technology. Literacy and non-formal education in the form of agricultural extension can help farmers increase crop yields. Agricultural research connected with tertiary education helps produce innovation leading to more sustainable systems.
While providing daily sustainable and renewable resources to communities, properly built and covered aquaponics systems can be a life saver during natural disasters. When a natural disaster occurs, and logistical support is interrupted, an Aquaponics system can provide a much-needed source of food during a time when no other food resources are available.