Fighting Hunger with Aquaponics

Farmers have battled the nature throughout the history of the world.  Bad weather, storm damage, insects, animals and plant disease have taken a toll on food supplies everywhere. Even if you’re not a farmer, any given year could bring feast or famine with traditional crop raising outdoors. Greenhouse crops aren’t always the solution, whether it be cost prohibitive or energy is not available. Besides that, a hot house tomato is a sad reputation of one grown in the soil or hydroponically.

Technology and information flow are changing this scenario, even in third world countries where drought and famine are more common than some regions of the developed world. Both aquaculture and hydroponics have been around for a long time, but it wasn’t until just recently that pairing them up has been deemed the solution to starvation in drought-stricken places. Many argue that there is insufficient energy available for aquaponics to be operated efficiently in some countries. It seems that this is a misconception.

The government of Nepal does see the huge possibility as a means of alleviating hunger and increasing local economies. Nepal plans to monitor systems operating in their country during 2013, and also the government will be setting up their own system to study.  The driest areas of Nepal also have only periodic electricity. The solution to this obstacle comes from what you might call antiquated methods, but the energy provided by water movement in rivers and streams is sufficient to make it happen.

aquaponics-drought-reliefIn the desert areas of the Southwestern USA, aquaponics was recently introduced to some Native American tribes with success. Electricity is not a problem here, but enough precipitation to grow produce is. Additionally, the cost of purchasing healthy foods at retail stores is a problem for many low income people in the United States. Growing food locally definitely decreases the cost involved and creates an economy within the neighborhood. Colorado based indoor gardening supplier, Grow Haus is working closely with a number of tribes in spreading use of and being successful with aquaponics.

The world’s largest aquaponics operation was set up in the Arab city of Abu Dhabi in 2011. Built with grant money for the purpose of area economic rehabilitation, it is now showing to be a success with produce sales humming right along.

Here on the streets of cities and small towns in North America, many go hungry due to the suffering economy and lack of jobs. One man spends his days raising chickens and being an aquaculture farmer in an urban area solely for the goal of feeding the hungry. It began with one small piece of land behind a health food store in Greenville, South Carolina and has now grown to four locations with more in the planning stages. Why would a successful internet marketing guy quit his job and open a business that has little means to support him and his family? Bo Cable has been homeless and hungry before. Knowing what that is like drives him to forge ahead, and somehow his bills are always paid, though he’s not quite sure how it keeps happening.

Chickens might seem a bit off topic for aquaponics. Actually, its an excellent part of the whole scenario and wisely included. Fish thrive on the by products of chicken processing, providing a source of fish food produced right there on the property. Unlike larger meat animals, you can raise a good number of chicken in very limited space. Most urban areas have no problems with you raising a few chickens in the backyard for meat and eggs.

Food, and the need for it, transcends anyone’s place in this world. Good food can transform communities and urban farming activities like aquaponics have the power to bring about great things.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.