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Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines aquaculture with recirculating agriculture in the form of either hydroponics or geoponics; it uses a pump to circulate water between fish tanks (or ponds) and plant beds.

Fish are fed through a combination of aquatic plants and pelleted feed, growing rapidly in the absence of natural predators.  Water from the tanks accumulates ammonia-rich fish waste which, if left in the water, is toxic to the fish.  This waste-filled water is pumped into a filter where the ammonia from the fish waste is converted by naturally occurring beneficial bacteria and turned into nitrates.  This fertilizer-enriched water is then irrigated to and absorbed by the plants which need these nitrates for growth.  In turn the plants work as a sort of filter for the water, removing all the toxins after which the cleansed water is recirculated back to the fish.  To make the system even more sustainable, any plants that go unsold or uneaten can be fed to the fish.  The whole process allows both the fish and the plants to grow faster and healthier than before.

In most aquaponic systems, plants are grown by being suspended directly in water (hydroponics).  While this eliminates the need for soil or other root-media, it creates several disadvantages.  Plants grown in water develop water-born root structures, preventing such crops from later being transplanted into soil.  Moreover, certain nutrients essential to the flowering and fruiting stages of plants are not found in fish effluent.  Thus hydroponics systems, which provide no other nutrient than fish waste for the plants, cannot sustain most crop species and is usually restricted to such plants as spinach and lettuce.

The Fresh Coast Foundation’s most recent designs modify the traditional aquaponic system  to grow fruiting plants, meaning any plants that you might grow in an ordinary garden are able to be grown in our systems!

To see an instructional video demonstrating how the fish-bacteria-plant bed cycle worked in one of our early test systems, see the video above, where:

(1) Nutrient-rich water is circulated by a pump from a fish tank to plant beds; (2) The plants purify the water by removing the nutrients; and (3) the purified water then drains back into the fish tank where the process starts anew.

pdf icon View Our Fresh Coast Foundation Field Guide to Aquaponics (Coming Soon)

Learn Even More

Want to learn more about aquaponics? Try visiting our interactive knowledge bank at wiki.freshcoastfoundation.org.

Drip irrigation is a low cost, locally replicable technology which can dramatically increase crop yields in areas with water concerns.  Drip irrigation is something we’ve used in our work in Kenya, and which we will use in future projects.  Please check back on this page in the coming weeks as we continue to update this page and add more information about our approach to drip irrigation.

pdf icon View Our Fresh Coast Foundation Field Guide to Drip Irrigation (Coming Soon)

We’re currently exploring the use of Biogas Digesters at some of our project sites. Please check back in the coming weeks as we update this information.

We’re currently exploring the use of low cost, modular greenhouses at some of our project sites. Please check back in the coming weeks as we update this information.

We’re currently exploring the use of wood gasification generators at some of our project sites. Please check back in the coming weeks as we update this information.