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Monday, October 18, 2010

Ancient Aquaponics


Aquaponics - the symbiotic cultivation of fish and edible plants, has been around for over 6000 years. It is seen (above) in the fabulous paintings from the tomb of Nebamun, and a drawing in King Tut's tomb shows the boy king merrily flipping two tilapia from an aquaponic pond into the arms of his wife.

Since I like food and technology and saving the planet, aquaponics is a natural for me. I've been checking out the burgeoning aquaponics movement in Australia, and decided to create a system of my own here in the US.

I've come across four options:

1) Buy the stylish "Farm in a Box" from EarthSolutions ($3000 + S&H on for the 200 gallon version).

2) Buy the lovely "Aquabundance" system from ($1295, free shipping, 60 gallon unit)

3) Buy one of the "Food Forever Growing Systems" ($895 + S&H for the 100 gallon bare bones system).

4) DIY from IBC containers, 55 gallon barrels, bathtubs, etc.

Underwhelming compared to the cool stuff they're doing in Australia.

So why isn't aquaponics taking off in the US? You know, because if it were popular in the US, I could find supplies and get a system without paying four digits...

I've decided it's because it gets cold here in the US.

Look at a map - Australia is mostly within 30 degrees of the equator, kind of like Central America. It pretty much just doesn't get cold there. Sydney, Australia, is as far south of the equator as Los Angeles, California, is north. Think warm/hot, frost-free weather year round.

No wonder the Aussies can do aquaponics in their backyards! For those with a greenhouse or a large porch in the warm climes of the US, the Farm in a Box or Food Forever Growing Systems make a lot of sense.

The Aquabundance system takes the cooler US reality into account - the system is small enough to fit through doorways and has a cart with wheels for the growbed. But to equal the recommended 1000 liter system most Aussies talk about (250 gallons), I'd have to get at least 4 Aquabundance units - over $5000.

I wish I had $5000. But I don't. So I'm going to try to figure out how to do a system that looks good that doesn't cost lots of dough.