Hydroponics and aquaponics are not the “end all be all” of growing crops and raising fish. Both systems can develop problems and they require regular attention and maintenance. Their biggest downfall is cost as it is usually more expensive to set the systems up and run them than it is to use traditional methods of growing or fishing.
However, when it is difficult or even impossible to use traditional methods possibly due to the region in which you live or because of some disaster, the ability to use these systems all year long and indoors can be a tremendous benefit.
Defining Hydroponics and Aquaponics
Before getting into the why and benefits of adding these systems to your preparations let’s quickly define what they are.
Quite simply, hydroponics is the growing of plants in a nutrient-rich solution rather than using soil. Plants can be grown in individual slots in specially designed containers, or they can be grown in batches suspended on a larger water source.
This system uses hydroponics but adds fish into the system. The fish generate waste which is converted into nutrients that the plants absorb and filter out, providing clean water back to the fish. This system benefits both the fish and plants as the solution is continuously pumped through the system.
When it comes to being prepared, self-reliance is a reoccurring theme, and growing or raising your food is part of the foundation of that process.
However, growing food doesn’t come without its obstacles. The grower has to contend with mother nature for a good harvest which can sometimes be a flip of the coin.
Changing seasons, too much rain, too little rain, extreme temperatures, disease, insects, and other predators are all the things that can affect crops. Below are some of the benefits of using hydroponics or aquaponics over traditional methods.
While hydroponics and aquaponics can be set up outdoors, one of their best features is that they can be set up indoors. Many of the variables that can affect outdoor crops are much easier to control in an indoor environment and therefore do not pose as much of an issue.
Being able to grow indoors is also beneficial when outdoor space is an issue. Outdoor space may be minimal, nonexistent, or just isn’t conducive to growing plants or raising fish. In this situation, the systems can be set up in a basement, spare room, or any other available indoor space.
Lastly, what helps with setting these systems up indoors is that there is no specific design you must use. As long as the plants and fish are getting what they need, the systems can be as big or as small as you like and they can take the shape of whatever your imagination can come up with. This is incredibly useful when available space may be limited.
We also live in a world of changing seasons, but our planet’s weather appears to be changing to the point that extreme temperatures are becoming the norm. Most plants are temperature sensitive and therefore can only be grown during certain parts of the year.
Fishing can also be regulated by the weather as it may cause some species to move from one region to another. Wintertime in some regions also makes it more difficult to fish when a water source freezes over.
When the grow tanks are placed indoors, it gives the grower the ability to precisely control environmental temperatures twenty-four hours a day. This allows for growing seasons that extend throughout the year and you never have to worry about tracking fish down or dealing with the ice.
Water is always a concern when growing plants, whether it be too much or too little. Some regions may receive an annual rainfall amount that is insufficient for growing certain crops while other regions have to worry about their gardens and fields becoming flooded.
Additionally, a lot of water is often wasted on crops through evaporation but more commonly through runoff. This means more water must be used for the roots to get a proper drink. With hydroponics and aquaponics, water is continuously recycled through the system, and it is in constant contact with the roots. Whatever water the plant doesn’t use stays in the system to be used later.
Just as is the case with water, nutrients can be lost through runoff, and too little or more often the case, too much may be applied to outdoor crops.
Nutrients that are put into a hydroponics system can be precisely controlled because those nutrients will always get to the root system. This also means you do not have to worry about the negative side effects of fertilizer runoff on your property.
Better Yield and Grow Time
The yields of crops that are grown outdoors can vary depending on many of the variables discussed above. During a bad season, yields may be low and during a good season, there may be an abundance of produce.
Hydroponics and aquaponics are not perfect and issues can arise, but since many variables are tightly controlled in these systems there is less of a chance of the elements negatively affecting crops.
Additionally, the plants generally grow quicker and provide a higher yield than would be expected with plants that are grown outdoors because they are growing in an optimal environment.
Two Food Sources
One of the great characteristics of using aquaponics is that it provides two sources of food. The first source is the plants that are grown and the second is a source of meat, the fish.
Not all fish are suited for raising in an aquaponics system but there is a good selection of types that are. Imagine being able to raise a source of fish that cannot be found locally or even in the region you live in. This provides access to a meat source that is easily obtained and does not need to be actively fished for.
Technically speaking almost any plant can be grown in a hydroponics system. However, the issue comes down to what is most cost-effective because some plants require much more growing space than others.
For example, corn is quite tall and therefore requires a lot of overhead space. Therefore a much larger indoor structure would be needed to grow them. Before you decide to grow with a hydroponics system, research the plants you want to cultivate to make sure they are a good fit for you.
It can be because you must regularly check different parts of the system to ensure everything is operating correctly, such as the grow lights, pumps, and nutrient levels.
Overall, hydroponics and aquaponics are more costly than using traditional methods, but the cost involved also depends on how large of a system you want. A system that grows and raises a few plants and fish will be more affordable than one that is larger.
Another way to save money on these two systems is to piece the parts out and build the framework yourself rather than purchasing a pre-made system.
Setting up these two systems and maintaining them can certainly be more costly than using traditional methods, but sometimes those methods may not be available to us or in our best interest to use.
What is more costly is not having a plan or a backup plan for producing food and getting protein. Even if the system is not being used right now, it is a good idea to have all the components for it so that it can be set up and utilized when you need it the most.
Thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts or questions about the above article be sure to sound off in the comment section below and let us know!