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The need for systems design for robust Aquaponic systems in the urban environment

Vermeulen, T., Kamstra, A.
Acta horticulturae 2013 no.1004 pp. 71-77
aquaponics, business enterprises, disease control, energy, entrepreneurship, fish, hydroponics, land use, nitrates, nutrient availability, nutrients, plant products, production technology, researchers, value added
Aquaponics - the co-production of fish and plant products - is gaining interest both by entrepreneurs and researchers. This article evaluates both the technical setup as well as the economic potential of aquaponic systems and is aimed at identifying relevant knowledge questions for further improvements. Using system requirements for hydroponic systems and aquaculture, the aquaponic system was compared to a typical Dutch rockwool system. Aquaponics was found to be an improvement on current practices when using Deep Flow Technique (cultivation in a flowing thick water layer), resulting in better nutrient availability for the plants and re-use of nitrate. However, the technical challenges of the direct linkage between the two production systems in terms of needed technology and disease management was found to make the total system suboptimal when compared to conventional practices. The technological advantages of efficiency in use of land and energy and re-use of nutrients were found to be a marginal cost reduction of 1.2%. The article concludes that the added value of aquaponics can be found in the total business concept of producing in an urban environment with direct relationship with consumers. Further improvement of aquaponics can be found in improved disease management of the system - through management or improved design.