When it comes right down to it, living off the grid is about a few key things. Air. We breath thousands of times each day and hardly even think about it. Water. We’ll die if we go more than just a few days without something fresh to drink. Then there is food. Food is often the true breaking point between life and death. It is a lot harder to find a steady supply of food than it is to find water or air. Without a good meal in your belly, it becomes harder and harder to put in the energy to find that next vital morsel.
What if, when SHTF (“the Stuff Hits The Fan”), you didn’t have to worry about your food source? No, I’m not talking MRE’s and other packaged or canned stuff (although I am not discounting the importance of a quality food stash). What I’m talking about is an everlasting food source that provides delicious, nutritious and fresh produce AND the best quality fish protein. That’s right, your garden can grow more than just lettuce. In fact, you can grow fresh fish and all the produce you could desire for way less effort than it takes to go out and weed the garden.
Does this sound too good to be true? Fresh fish, fresh produce, no weeding, no watering and no digging? What about no chemicals or industrial taint? If this amazing garden could be run on no more than 5-10 minutes a day and all on solar power would you be interested?
What I’m talking about is cutting-edge technology being tested by NASA without the NASA pricetag. In fact, you can do it yourself right in your own home or backyard. You can build this amazing garden with parts found at your local hardware store.
Alright, so what is it already? The amazing technology I’ve described to you here is known as aquaponics, the growing of fish and plants together in a sustainable ecosystem. Traditionally it is thought of as the natural evolution of conventional hydroponics (growing plants in a soil-less medium with chemically fertilized water) and aquaculture (growing fish in high density farming scenarios reminiscent of beef and swine CAFOs).
Aquaponics reduces the risks and downsides of hydroponics and aquaculture by combining the two sciences. The fish water, which normally requires extensive filtration, is fed to the plants. The plants act as the filter. By filtering the water, the plants get all the nutrition they need to grow and thrive. Normally in hydroponics, the plants are fed with chemicals typically derived from petroleum. However, in aquaponics all the nutrients are totally natural, organic and safe. In the end, the clean water from the plants goes back to the fish, creating a closed-loop.
If we are being 100% honest with ourselves, if something is not healthy for the fish or the plants it’s probably not healthy for us either. That’s one of the easiest things to love about aquaponics. It takes the guesswork out. No mire uncertainty over the quality of the food you eat. The result is the highest quality fish and plants. And it’s all just outside your back door! In fact, I have my own aquaponics system about 4 feet out my back door.
Below, you’ll find 10 reasons why aquaponics is vital to your food survival plan for any sort of long term planning.
Grows fish protein! Totally mercury free and without antibiotics
This is the total game changer. Most high-tech gardening techniques like hydroponics typically yield lettuce greens, some berries and not much else. The growth is delicious and nutritious, but greens and berries are far from a full, food secure diet. That’s where aquaponics comes in. By adding fish protein into the mix, aquaponics is vital for true food security.
Runs easily on solar power or any kind of generator.
Yes, aquaponics systems require a small portion of energy. However, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know it does not take that much to run a well designed aquaponics system. Typically there is: One water pump (of varying size depending on scale of system). One air pump. A water heater, depending on location of the system itself. There is also the optional expense of artificial lighting, which one should look at on a case by case basis. That’s it! One can design a really awesome system so it only has one pump. Sometimes its just an air pump, which uses almost no electricity compared to a water pump. The colder the climate the more difficult it can be to be reliably off-grid. With careful design and proper strategy it is possible just about anywhere there is civilization.
Grows more plants on less space
Aquaponics can greatly increase the amount of plants you can grow in a given area. This is due to many reasons. For one, you can grow plants more densely packed together because there is less root competition for nutrients. Second, plants grow faster due to the abundance and high quality of nutrients available. Third, plants grow bigger again, due to the abundance and high quality of nutrients as well as the strong soil microbiome and presence of probiotic organisms. Finally, aquaponics is also capable of being farmed vertically. Vertical farming is a modern advancement that allows us to grow plants in vertical structures. Instead of 1 lettuce per square foot, we can go 4’, 12’, even 50’ high and grow 50 lettuces per square foot if we want to! So altogether, aquaponics grows plants more densely per square foot, faster, bigger AND vertically.
Uses very little consumables
Aquaponics allows you to grow your own organic fish protein and produce without the need for chemical fertilizers, just fish food! You can even grow your own fish food, increasing your ability to survive in case the local fish food supply runs dry. For an example of ways to grow your own fish food, look into Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)
Water cycles continuously and never is thrown out. Just top-off for evaporation!
For years, hydroponics has been known as the most water-saving form of agriculture. Hydroponics uses nutrient filled water solution to feed plants. However, these nutrients eventually cause the water to become too poisonous even for the plants and must be tossed out. Disposing of this often chemical laden water is dangerous and expensive. However, aquaponics has all the same water saving properties of hydroponics and (barring some emergency) you’ll never have to remove the water once you get your system to properly cycle. The water of an aquaponics system actually grows stronger and allows you to grow more types of plants; like nutrient hungry tomatoes.
Grows a large variety of vegetables and any local, regional fish you care to raise!
Aquaponics excels with greens, herbs, and can also grow fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. As for fish, I suggest using a local variety best adapted to your environment. Any freshwater fish will work though, given the right system parameters
Provides an ongoing food resource once the MRE’s have run out.
An aquaponics garden is your own personal, close-loop ecosystem. That means it will continue to run as long as you feed the fish and keep the water flowing. You’ll be able to keep growing food for years and years on the same garden, long after your stores have run dry.
Scales to any space, whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors.
I got started with a desktop system and a 20 gallon fish tank in my cramped Boston apartment. From there we built a family sized system in my backyard, once I moved home to Connecticut. Never satisfied we built our community sized garden at a local farm. Our next project is urban commercial farming. We intend to prove out the aquaponics model on every scale.
Works in any climate, given you take the necessary precautions
Most commercial aquaponics farms reside in places where food production is already abundant, like Florida and California. There is however a contingent of aquaponics farms, including Bright Agrotech and my farm, Trifecta Ecosystems, Inc. bringing aquaponics to cold-weather climates for year-round production. There is also exciting research happening in Canadian universities. Aquaponics is possible in cold places and hot places alike, from Alberta to the United Arab Emirates. That means there is no excuse not to include aquaponics as part of your long term food security strategy.
No disgusting toxins and poisonous byproducts
As you know, it is vital to ensure your food is free from toxins and pathogens as part of your food security plan. Aquaponics is totally organic and free from any dangerous chemicals. Any typical hydroponic chemicals would kill the fish. Likewise, any typical aquaculture chemicals would harm the plants. Our pest control plan uses integrated pest management controls, like beneficial insects, organic sprays made from garlic and cayenne pepper, and other natural remedies. That means your plants are pristine and delicious, and your fish are free from mercury and parasites.
Built with parts from your local hardware store
Best of all, this can be done using stuff found at your local hardware store and craigslist.com. A family size system could range from $1000-$5000. For more info on how to build your own, just check out our DIY system design page.
Even if the apocalypse doesn’t come today, come enjoy saved time money and effort along with peace of mind for tomorrow. Aquaponics takes all the labor of weeding and watering and eliminates it by harnessing the natural tendencies of nature. As a result, you get a bountiful garden that can provide a variety of produce with extra to share. Plus you get eat the freshest tilapia, catfish, bass, or any other fish you decide you want. If you’re short on space, short on time, short on money or if you just plain need a high-quality, reliable food source, then aquaponics is the solution for you. Save money today and be ready for tomorrow.