Aquaponics Part IV: Why Aquaponics?

The aquaponic setup at Better Farm.
By Noah Bogdonoff
In case you missed it, Better Farm has been steadily working on setting up an indoor aquaponic garden. We’ve taken you through the set-up and installation of our own system, but one big question remains: Why aquaponics? What can this type of system give us that we don’t already get from our (beautiful!) garden?

Firstly, aquaponic gardening is space-efficient. This isn’t so much an issue up in the North Country, where land is easy to come by, but in urban areas aquaponic gardening could revolutionize the way people think about food. Because aquaponic systems don’t require soil, all one needs to garden is enough space for a fish tank and a growing container that can fit atop it. This is also space-efficient in that it builds vertically, preserving precious floor space! Since many residents and interns (myself included) hail from cities, this is a perfect way for them to get started with sustainability when they return to their natural habitats.

Secondly, this system provides us with food year-round. North Country winters are notoriously harsh and the availability of fresh produce could save us from a winter of frozen and canned foods. For people living far away from grocery stores or those who don’t have easy access to organic and local foods, aquaponics is a surefire way to add some fresh, healthy food to your diet without having to go on a road trip. And, speaking of road trips, aquaponic gardening is a beautiful form of “lifestyle activism”—by growing food in your own home, you can avoid wasting the energy required to transport the food as well as the energy required to drive to the store.

The third big advantage of aquaponic gardening is that, given all of the above, it actually saves you money and time. As with outdoor gardens, growing your own food can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars every year. The average payback time for an aquaponic garden has been estimated at two years, meaning that after two years, you’ll have saved the amount of money you spent on the system. After that, your average cost of living per year will decrease. Unlike traditional gardens, however, which require laborious hours of weeding, watering, and tending, aquaponic gardens are extremely low maintenance. Once the nitrogen cycle is set up and the seeds are planted, the closed-loop nature of the system allows it function mostly on its own, as long as you’re feeding your fish. Once a plant is fully grown, just pull it up and pop another seed in its place.  

There are many more reasons to go aquaponic, but it’s easy to see why the above three could completely change the landscape of food politics in cities, suburbs, and harsh climates. Stop by the farm later on in the summer to see the fruits (well, vegetables) of our labor!