The goal of this episode is to give you a thorough overview of hydroponics and aquaponics, and to help you decide which you should choose.
A form of hydroponics.
Any soil-less plant production. Instead plants grow in a media such as pea gravel, sand, water, or spun plastic media. Plant nutrients come from a nutrient solution or fertilizer that is added to the water.
What makes hydroponics so useful?
Hydroponics is favored in areas with poor soil quality or when high density production is necessary. A great example is when during World War II, high density production was needed to support the troops. (In fact, this is was about the time when hydroponics started taking off outside of the research setting.) An additional benefit of hydroponics is that it is “controlled environment ag”. that means that crop production is not subject to the whims of nature. (Such as hail storms.) “Controlled environment” also refers to the inputs of production. Hydroponic farmers have very tight control over what goes into their crops. The usefulness of hydroponics is so recognized today, that you would be hard-pressed to find a tomato or basil for sale that wasn’t grown with some form of hydroponics. Even so, the industry continues to grow at a rapid rate.
What is the difference between aquaponics and hydroponics?
Aquaponics includes a third component in addition to microbes and plants: fish. This means that the system gets designed differently to host the fish. In return, the fish provide nutrients for the plants.
Which one should you use?
The yield from hydroponics and aquaponics doesn’t differ significantly. What you choose to practice depends almost entirely on your market. (See this webinar) If you are growing on a hobby level you’ll want to consider simplicity. Here are a few facts that could help you decide:
- Hydroponic systems are typically ready to grow within four weeks of setting them up, while aquaponic systems have to cycle and aren’t functioning at full capacity for several months.
- Hydroponic systems are more susceptible to disease, since the ecology has fewer defenses that in aquaponics.
- Aquaponics has a plethora of principles and concepts with which you can teach students, kids, and yourself. Hydroponics is still good to teach with, but has fewer possibilities.
- Aquaponics pest control is more limited than in hydroponics because fish can be harmed by many oil or soap pesticides. (Check out this post to start managing pests safely.)
- Hydroponics is easier for beginners. Aquaponics has a more complicated ecology, so there is more to learn right off the bat. (You’ll probably make more mistakes beginning in aquaponics than in hydroponics.)
Tips from us:
- If you are starting a big system, we suggest starting with hydroponics, then transitioning to aquaponics. The transition is rough with some techniques, but fairly easy with ZipGrow vertical towers.
- Do your research. Bright Agrotech produces a lot of free unbiased information via our blog and Youtube channel. Another awesome resource is “Hydroponic Food Production” by Howard Resh.
Look forward to our next episodes on types of aquaponics systems (episode 4) and fish in aquaponics (episode 5).