A lot of the tomatoes and strawberries you eat are probably grown hydroponically.
That means they grow directly in water, without soil. The water is fertilized, giving the plant the nutrients it needs directly through the water.
In soil, plants need to spread out their roots to collect all the nutrients they need to grow. This makes them comparatively heavy.
When you grow them directly in water, they don’t need to spread their roots as much, because they can just suck up the nutrients in the water. Provided the water is properly fertalized, the plant is happy.
In addition to possibly being able to grow 10 times as much in the same amount of space, compared to regular farmland, you also use ten times less water, since the only water that you need to replace is the water lost to evaporation.
The problem? Fertilizer is expensive, so having a hydroponic farm can get costly. And, often, the fertilizer is chemical, leaving you with crops that aren’t exactly organic.
Aquaculture is the practice of farming fish and other marine animals (like shellfish).
If fishing is like hunting and gathering (catching wild fish) then aquaculture is like agriculture. Fish like carp and salmon are commonly bred in aquaculture installations.
The problem? The fish poop turns into ammonia, which dilutes the water. You need to constantly replace the water, which gets expensive.
But what happens when you combine the two?
You get aquaponics. You pump up water from the fish tank to some sort of container where you grow any of about 300 fruits and vegetables that have been proven to grow in aquaponic installations. You can grow almost anything, including fruit trees.
The ammonia in the water, from the fish poop, gets used up as natural fertilizer by the plants. The plants clean the water, which then gets circulated back to the fish tank.
It’s almost self-sustaining. You just need to feed the fish, who will eat almost anything. A lot cheaper than fertilizer. And their poop is even better than commercial, chemical fertilizer.
And since the water gets cleaned by the plants, the fish are happier too.
If you’re a regular farmer, an aquaponic installation is twice as easy to run, and your back won’t hurt. It’s also less expensive. And you might double your income, since your margins are higher, you can grow more in the same space, and you have an additional income source from selling fish in addition to the fruits and veggies.
I love shit like this. Both aquaculture and hydroponics have their respective problems and downsides. If you combine them, you get the best of both worlds, and almost none of the drawbacks.
Whoever came up with it is a genius, and it gets you thinking... what else can I solve in this way?