More and more community gardens and rooftop farms are popping up in New York City. Urban agriculture is poised to provide nutritious food to people who did not previously have access to healthy food. It is an opportunity to take control of one’s own food consumption. Aquaponics combines hydroponics, fish, and agriculture, fostering a symbiotic relationship. Aquaponics creates its own ecosystem. Fish excretions are broken down by nitrogen-fixing bacteria into nitrates, nutrients for the plants, and the plants filter the water for the fish. This method of farming saves water, produces greater yields, and plants grow faster. This ecosystem is in a controlled environment, not limited by the changing seasons so it can produce year-round. Aquaponics can be built at a very small scale, in someone’s home or on a rooftop. The farms can be vertical or stacked. It meets the core desires of urban agriculture: local, organic, sustainable, accessible, efficient, scalable. However, not all small farms contain fish or amphibians.
I’ve gotten the opportunity to experience two small hydroponic farms. The first one was in the NYU downtown Brooklyn campus and the Hydroponics farm at P.S 298. I love the projects and artsy stuff around at the NYU location. I think the most fascinating part about it was that there is no soil being used during any of the stages. You can use a tank of tilapia, catfish, etc or a couple of tanks. The only difference is the small farm at 298 has no fish at all they have automated fertilizer that shoots nutrients the crops need to survive on a daily basis. The fish waste is converted into nitrates, which plants use as fertilizer, while the plants filter and clean the water for the fish. Some popular plants which are easy to grow in hydroponic setups include; leafy greens, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. The fish you choose to include in your tank will depend on whether you want to harvest the fish or have ornamental freshwater fish. If you want to raise fish to eat, the most common choice is Tilapia.
– A. Stone Bailey