If you can control every aspect of a crop’s existence, how much more efficiently will it grow? That’s the premise behind controlled environment horticulture which some smallholders are exploring.

There are various forms of “ponics” available.

Hydroponics is a technology for growing plants in nutrient solutions (water containing fertilizers) with or without the use of an artificial medium (sand, gravel, vermiculite, perlite, peatmoss, coir or sawdust) to provide mechanical support. There are different systems, including nutrient film technique, deep water culture, wick hydroponics, ebb & flow/flood & drain system and the drip method.

Image: NoSoilSolution

Aeroponics involves growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or any other growing medium.

Aquaculture is a broad term for fish farming which covers both fresh and salt water species. The fish can be contained either in man-made ponds, usually lined with some form of impervious membrane, or in cages suspended in open water.

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics where the water in which the fish are growing is cleansed of fish waste products (plant nutrients) by plants growing hydroponically.

In an aquaponic system, water from an aquaculture system is fed to a hydroponic system where the by-products are broken down by nitrogen-fixing bacteria into nitrates and nitrites, which are utilised by the plants as nutrients. The water is then recirculated back to the aquaculture system.

Aquaponics produces both fish and organic vegetables, in a dynamic, natural, pond-type ecosystem that if carefully managed, can feed you and your family. It can also be scaled up to feed many commercially.

Image: Aquaponictrend

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