Urban Agriculture

Introduction of Aquaponics System


Problems regarding with FOOD

Healthy food is the basis to support human’s life. Without it, we can’t grow our healthily, or even can’t survive. But now in China, the lack of food safety is huge problem. Large part of vegetables are grown with too much chemical fertilizer and pesticide, and some of them are also said to be polluted with other pollutant such as heavy metals (photo1). Fish also have risk of pollution with dirty water in which they live (Photo2).

The current food production system is causing bad effect not only to human health but also to environment, which nurtures all living things. First, the huge amount of water consumption for agricultural has big impact on the water usage in China (70% of whole water usage), and this make the water scarcity in north part of China more serious. Secondly, the energy consumption for transportation of food is huge. Everyday large number of trucks are coming and going between villages and cities to carry food. The more and more gas are consumed today and it is bad for energy scarcity and global warming. Too much use of chemical fertilizer is destroying natural power of soil, and it is becoming big problem in China.


Photo1. Harm of pesticide[1]


Photo 2. Polluted river and dead fish[2]



A key to solve problem: Aquaponics

There is one technology called aquaponics (Photo3). This is a combination of farming of fish and vegetable. Water circulates between fish tank to vegetable tank. Fish eat fish food, and fish’s discharges goes to the other tank and absorbed by vegetable as nutrition. Clean water goes back to fish tank and proved oxygen for fish when it drop into lower tank. Fish help vegetable to grow faster, at the same time, fish are helped by vegetable by providing clean water. This is the natural “win-win relationship” and exactly is the mechanism that is happening in natural ecosystem.


Photo 3. How aquaponics work[3]


What do you think good points of Aquaponics? Firstly, it can reduce water consumption with 90% because water circulate in closed system[4]. Secondly, aquaponics can provide us safer and healthier food which doesn’t contain chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or any pollutant. Thirdly, we can save gas consumption and CO2 emission caused by transportation of food from villages to cities, because we can grow food with less space, and it is possible to find the space even in city such as roof top of everyone’s house. And last but not least, it is fun to grow up plants and fish in your home! Members of RISE also grow gold fish and vegetables like tomatoes or lettuce in their house, and enjoying to see them growing healthily with helping each other. Through growing living things, we see how much time and effort are needed for the living things to grow up to be adult, and we can feel closer to nature and understand how food are precious. The table 1 shows the merits of Aquaponics.


                               for Human for Environment
  1. Reduce water consupmtion for agriculture
  2. Reduce energy consumption and CO2 for transportation of food
  3. Save farm land from too much use of chemical fertilizer
  1.  Provide Safe, healthy and fresh food without fertilizer, pesticide or other pollutant such as heavy metal
  2. Enjoy growing plants and fish, and learn the preciousness of life and food

Table 1. Merits of aquaponics



Current project and our future dream

Up to now, we built 3 systems and are doing research on them. The first one is a middle scale system on the roof top of university, and it is for egg plants and tomatoes and gold fish (photo4). The second one is a middle size system in a house of one of members, and it grows tomatoes, lettuce and gold fish (photo5). The third one is the mini size system in an office of university, and it is growing tomatoes, strawberry, chili pepper, and gold fish (photo 6). The tomato plant grow really big in very short time without any disease. This seems to be because discharge from fish are giving good nutrition to plants.


Photo 4. Middle scale roof top system in university

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Photo 5. Middle scale system in the house of a member

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Photo 6. Mini size system in an office of university


We hope many people will have their own system in their houses, and grow plants and fish in near future. People can eat healthy vegetable from their small farm, and will more appreciate food they eat every day. We also want to promote aquaponic factories in suburb of many cities, and let them provides safe, fresh and healthy food to people in city without long transportation. Through the diffusion of aquaponics in China, we believe that we can make a society in which people and nature can live happily together.


Source of Photos

[1] From the website of绿河谷net.   http://www.ylnet.com.cn/News/NewsShow-29340.html

[2] From the newspaper website of “The times Asia” http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/asia/article3695626.ece

[3]From the website of Design Affects


[4]Timmons, Michael and James Ebeling. (2007). RecirculatingAquaculture. Ithaca, NY: Cayuga Aqua Ventures at 30.

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