Hydroponics has become a popular term thrown away by the farming community, but we could often mistakenly replace its cousin, aquaponics, because it is a twin.
Although not yet common as hydroponics, it is slowly gaining ground as an alternative method of soilless cultivation in Malaysia. In short, aquaponics is a subset of the hydroponics it uses aquaculture, which refers to plants and fish farmed in water to provide plant nutrients.
Behind the science of aquaponics
To refresh hydroponics is an agricultural method that replaces soil water rich in nutrients. These nutrients include magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and other “plant foods” that should thrive on your crops.
To create a hydroponic system, you should invest in fresh water, oxygen, root support (like coconut fiber or rock wool), nutrients, and light.
The appeal The use of this cultivation method compared to conventional soil-based methods is that you can grow crops almost anywhere, while reducing disease risk, limiting the resources needed to set up the system, and also helping plants mature faster, leading to higher yields.
Aquaponics integrates all this into its breeding system, with the addition of fish and other aquatic animals and plants in the water.
The science behind it is quite clear – the excretion of fish becomes nutrients for crops because it contains nitrogen (in the form of ammonia), phosphorus and potassium, among other nutrients needed by your crops, as mentioned. They replace formulated water rich in nutrients.
When plants take in these nutrients, they simultaneously purify the water so that the fish can stay healthy. While the water filters Not required for aquaponics, because it is a fairly self-sustaining system, adding filters can improve the health of your fish and plants.
Can you repeat that at home?
“Aquaponics actually requires very little maintenance, because all you need is real fish that is farmed, space to build a farm, an efficient water filter system and a balanced water chemistry,” shared Dr. Richard from Farm2Fork with Vulcan Post. Farm2Fork is an aquaponic drive hardware supplier for several farms.
He recommends tilapia for beginners who want to try aquaponic farming as they are one of the hardest fish that can survive a wide range of water and require minimal care. Moreover, they are delicious (yes, you can to eat your aquaponic fish if it is an edible species, as opposed to koi or goldfish).
In fact, you can even use lobster or crabs for aquaponics, as well shown with the help of this Klang farm, which offers an aquaponic system setting and live lobsters.
Of course, even the most stubborn fish can only last that long, so Dr. Richard shared that with a proper water filtration system, plants can help disinfect the tank to ensure a healthier environment in the system, and maintenance makes it less of a hassle.
Great initial investment
Based on the Farm2Fork package, if you want farms for your own consumption, it will be approximately 20,800 RM to set up. This setting will take up about 60 square feet and can produce about 40kg of vegetables each month.
If, on the other hand, you want to cultivate agriculture commercially, it will cost about 57,800 RM which takes up 300 square meters and can produce up to 190 kg per month. The largest commercial package from Farm2Fork, which occupies 1,000 square meters, costs RM 148,800 and can produce up to 730 kg of vegetables per month.
There are other local suppliers of aquaponic systems EVE i Aquaponics cultivation equipment, but Farm2Fork differs in the sense that it provides tools and sets you up, while the other two require you to hire an installer.
As for monthly expenses, an aquaponics farmer from Cheras (E-farm) previously divided by A star that their monthly electricity and water bills are RM500 and RM15, respectively, based on their single-pump system.
Advantages of using aquaponics
One of the appeals mentioned above is that it is a self-sustaining system that looks to be almost its own ecosystem. Hydroponics is a more boring system compared because you need it change your nutrient-aqueous solution every 2-3 weeks to maintain the optimal pH and nutrient level for your plants.
Similar to hydroponics, aquaponics is also used 90% less water compared to soil gardening because it recycles water through plants and the aquarium. Plants grown from it are also organic because aquaponic systems are set up in a controlled environment, and the use of pesticides is not recommended because they are harmful to fish. In addition, you too you don’t have to to procure lighting equipment for growing crops if you have space and outdoors.
Unlike hydroponics, aquaponics allows you to grow several vegetables at once, and Farm2Fork claims that the technology can help you grow up to 10 types of vegetables in the same space.
Disadvantages of aquaponics
It currently exists there is no final study on which water system (hydroponics and aquaponics) results in higher yields, because it all comes down to how you manage your systems.
Aquaponics must also take into account the cost of the fish. You will have to be sure they are fed and invested in light protection for aquariums to prevent algae growth and compete for nutrients with your crops or clogged pipes.
If you’re not a patient person, the initial setting for aquaponic farming may not be your cup of tea as much as you need adjust the fish and let the water circulate before adding the herbs. Water circulation means that bacterial activity occurs first, and this can take time 4-6 weeks depending on the water temperature.
Aquaponics scene in Malaysia
You can grow almost anything with aquaponics; some common crops grown by Malaysians are spring onions, hi choy, paprika, lettuce, bitter gourd, ginger, mango, and even edamame and Japanese rock melons.
Locally, the aquaponics business scene is over focused on the supplier side and training on setting up aquaponics in your home.
To help you assess the growing demand for aquaponics, Dr. Richard shared with Vulcan Post that they have been able to establish 60 farm units in Malaysia and overseas in countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, Slovenia and the US since their inception 2 years ago.
But to get to where they are today, an initial investment in the RM300K was needed for the research, along with continuous failures over 10 months. “So far, we have invested over 1.5 million RM in hardware development in the past 24 months, and the investment is still ongoing,” he revealed.
Not much research has been conducted on the profitability of commercial aquaponics abroad, much less locally. The general consensus is that profitability will only be achieved when operations are at level a large scale. For urban farmers, space can then be a constraint.
Nevertheless, it remains a solution with environmental and cost benefits to ensure food safety and security. This is because global food production is already facing countless problems such as climate change, urbanization and more, making controlled and more efficient methods of growing aquaponics (and hydroponics) a welcome solution.
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In short, aquaponics is a versatile agricultural method. But like everything else, it has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on how you want to manage it and why.
|Benefits of aquaponics||Disadvantages of aquaponics|
|Self-sustaining system (you can be pretty hands on)||It requires a lot of space|
|It uses 90% less water than gardening||Another living thing you need to take care of (to some extent) – a fish|
|Multi-crop system (you can grow several vegetables at once)||You need to wait for the fish to adapt to the environment before you start farming, which can take more than a month|
|Organic vegetables (pesticides discouraged because they harm fish)||Expensive initial investment|
Credits for prominent paintings: dr. Richard Ng, founder of Farm2Fork