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Small-Scale Aquaponic Food Production - Integrated Fish and Plant Farming

16 February 2015

This FAO technical paper showcases current wisdom in aquaponics, focusing on small-scale production. The publication, written in a style designed to be digestible by a non-technical reader, is the product of practical experience with small-scale and commercial aquaponic systems, and was developed to share the lessons and current knowledge learned so that fledgling farmers can benefit from these experiences.

Aquaponics is a symbiotic integration of two mature disciplines: aquaculture and hydroponics. This technical paper discusses the three groups of living organisms (bacteria, plants and fish) that make up the aquaponic ecosystem.

It presents management strategies and troubleshooting practices, as well as related topics, specifically highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of this method of food production.

This publication discusses the main theoretical concepts of aquaponics, including the nitrogen cycle, the role of bacteria, and the concept of balancing an aquaponic unit.

It considers water quality, testing and sourcing for aquaponics, as well as methods and theories of unit design, including the three main methods of aquaponic systems: media beds, nutrient film technique, and deep water culture.

The publication includes other key topics: ideal conditions for common plants grown in aquaponics; chemical and biological controls of common pests and diseases including a compatible planting guide; common fish diseases and related symptoms, causes and remedies; tools to calculate the ammonia produced and biofiltration media required for a certain amount of fish feed; production of homemade fish food; guidelines and considerations for to establishing aquaponic units; a cost-benefit analysis of a small-scale, media bed aquaponic unit; a comprehensive guide to building small-scale versions of each of the three aquaponic methods; and a brief summary of this publication designed as a supplemental handout for outreach, extension and education.

Aquaponics is an integrated approach to efficient and sustainable intensification of agriculture that meets the needs of water scarcity initiatives.

Globally, improved agricultural practices are needed to alleviate rural poverty and enhance food security. Aquaponics is residue-free, and avoids the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Aquaponics is a labour-saving technique, and can be inclusive of many gender and age categories. In the face of population growth, climate change and dwindling supplies of water and arable land worldwide, developing efficient and integrated agriculture techniques will support economic development. 

Further Reading

You can view the FAO Manual by clicking here.

February 2015 

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