Make fish, not war | English version

Make fish, not war | English version
Image by Michelle Söderman

Aquaponics play an important role in today’s food production through innovative and sustainable methods. This circular type of farming also helps to minimize food and water shortages that could amplify conflicts between countries in the future.    

According to a World Bank report between June to September 2022, domestic food price inflation remains high around the world. High inflation based on the income of countries are shown according to the following information: 84.2% of low-income countries, 88.9% of lower-middle-income countries, 93% of upper-middle-income countries and 87.5% of high-income countries have seen inflation levels above 5%. 

Millions are driven into extreme poverty triggered by high food & energy prices, extreme climate change and environmental pollution problems, war declarations within & between countries, deforestation and soil degradation due to classical agriculture practices and the COVID-19 pandemic, thus escalating the global crisis with malnutrition, hunger, weaker immune systems & other health issues and even more local & international conflicts.  

According to a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night. The number of people facing acute food insecurity has soared from 135 million to 345 million since 2019 and those that will need urgent assistance is likely to climb to 222 million people in 53 countries and territories.  

Helpful policies should be implemented with the following goals: to reduce food wastage and water shortage, and to increase food production and water preservation.  

Methods of food production that promote a harmonious relationship between humans and the environment are becoming more common as more countries commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, and more people choose to change their habits to reduce their carbon footprint,  

Increasing local food production requires sustainable solutions such as adopting circular and climate-smart agriculture with better management for higher-yield crops that use less water. 

One of the emerging sustainable solution involves fish and plants. 

Aquaponics is a type of small-scale farming system that combines two innovative farming methods: 1) aquaculture -farming of fish/ marine animals in land-based & man-made water environment; and 2) hydroponics - growing plants with water, plant nutrients and substrates instead of soil in a closed-loop system. The animals combined in the system provide nutrients in the form of ammonium from broken down fecal and urine excretions. Effective bacterias convert the fish waste into nitrate to sustains the plants instead of using expensive plant fertilizers.   

The practice of aquaponic gardening can be traced back in central Mexico around 1000 AD, when the Aztec people developed a technique known as chinampa to expand their growing efforts to the surface of lakes and ponds by weaving together logs and sticks to create a floating farm the Aztecs used water from the lakes and waste produced by fish to nourish crops. Even in Southeast Asia, the practice of raising fish in rice fields became one of the best examples of polyculture farming as a method of sustainability by creating a symbiotic cultivation process using finfish, catfish, ducks, and plants. Finfish would process the waste from ducks living in an upper pond, while the catfish would then feed off the finfish waste in a lower pond, then wastewater from the catfish pond would flow to irrigate the rice and vegetable crops creating a holistic ecological food system. 

The obvious advantages of aquaponic farming are the reduced land and fertiliser usage, controlled climate management, minimal water requirement which is 90 to 99% less than that of classical agriculture, more cost-effective than traditional farming techniques as it generates enough return to justify the initial cost of the system, all-year-round farming regardless of climatic conditions, minimal food loss to parasites, and more environmentally and economically sustainable food production. 

Some of the great contributions that aquaponics can deliver are as follows: to help communities feed the population, especially in areas where classic agriculture is insufficient; to help communities become less reliant on imports and instead more reliant on local food production; to reduce supply chain length and food wasteage during transportation; to maximize local food production by installing systems in empty, idle or isolated locations or infrastructures; and to provide huge opportunities for small-scale farmers. 

So, to sum it up: Can aquaponics solve food and water crisis that could result to international conflicts between countries? The answer is partly yes and no. Yes, because of the obvious advantages and contributions that aquaponics can offer, and no for the main reason that before aquaponics can become a viable solution for the global dilemma on food and water shortage, the technology needs to be upgraded to scale down energy cost and management requirements specially in cold countries like Sweden. 

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