Aquaponics systems are revolutionizing the way we grow food commercially and at home. These systems, which fertilize plants with the waste byproducts of fish, allow food to be grown regardless of rainfall, soil quality, fertilizer or pests. Research has shown that an aquaponics system uses about just a tenth of the water used to grow vegetables in the ground, making this kind of setup a perfect solution for arid regions, areas prone to drought, or for indoor gardening systems.
In an aquaponics system, fish produce ammonia-rich waste that breaks down into nitrites and eventually nitrates that plants love. A pump takes the water from the fish tank to a grow bed, where plants grow in peat moss or gravel. The nutrients from the fish waste fertilize the plants, while their roots further filter the water for the fish in the tank. From the grow bed, water recirculates to the fish tank and the process begins again. The whole system oxygenates itself through the percolation of the water and an (optional) air pump.
Aquaponics setups provide one of the cheapest ways to cultivate food. Costs range from less than $50 for a tiny kitchen counter setup to around $400 and up for a large kit. Of course, the more you’re willing to upcyle or buy second hand, the cheaper it gets. If you tally up what you spend in a year on salad greens and herbs (or the produce of your choice), you're likely to find this mini-farm is an insanely safe investment. And while the materials list is a bit daunting, the process is anything but.