Friday, February 3, 2012

Urban Agriculture: Aquaponics

[caption id="attachment_14123" align="alignleft" width="300"] Aquaponics[/caption]

Bob Ewing - Food, we all eat it, or at least we want and need to, how we meet that daily demand varies culturally, economically, socially and psychologically. In the past two articles, I have been focusing on the economic aspects, and will continue to do so today.

Aquaponics is gaining in popularity across the country, both small scale backyard projects and larger scale commercial efforts are establishing themselves as viable enterprise.

Aquaponics refers to an aquaponic system specifically set up for the purpose of providing a protein crop (the fish) and a vegetable, herb or fruit crop (the plants).

The Aquaponics Journal states that basil is the most commonly grown herb in aquaponic and hydroponic systems. Basil has a hardy nature and is in great demand, an ideal marketing combination.

Basil is also one of the most popular culinary herbs, so it is possible that an aquaponic system that includes basil could be a profitable venture. Of course a marketing study as part of an overall business plan would need to be done to determine if it was worth proceeding. Of course, basil is not the only plant that can be grown in an aquaponic system.

Perch, trout and tilapia are the most commonly used coldwater edible fish in an aquaponics system, however, goldfish, for example, could just as readily be used if the operator did not want to raise fish for food purposes.

Growing Power is a national not-for-profit company with the following vision:

“Inspiring communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time.”

Growing Power has offices in Milwaukee and Chicago and provides an inspiration to any community seeking to secure its food supply, while building a strong and vibrant local economy.

As the practice of urban agriculture spreads across North America, and elsewhere, entrepreneurs are creating new ways to grow and distribute food.

Aquaponics is both old and new, but it is growing. If we look at what Growing Power, for example, is able to produce, we can see the economic potential of similar projects.

Across the continent similar projects are springing up, some are located in communities, that have experienced neglect, lack sources of fresh food, need revitalizing and jobs. Urban agricultural projects can provide all three.

People need to join together to address the economic situation; it is no longer acceptable to leave the decisions in the hands of a few who often act in their own best interests.

Businesses need to be more democratic and inclusive and the cooperative model is both. Urban agricultural enterprises can be set up as workers cooperatives, for example, and by including aquaponic systems in their food production, produce more than enough food for the people in their community, and create jobs at the same time.