This weekend’s co-op style produce shares will include lovely local aquaponic lettuce from Sand Creek Farm in Cameron, TX. You can usually tell the aquaponic lettuce in your share right away because the roots are still attached.
Aquaponics is a system for farming fish and plants together in a mutually beneficial cycle. Fish produce wastes that turn into nitrates and ammonia. These aren’t good for the fish if they build up too much, but they’re great fertilizer for plants. As the plants suck up these nutrients, they purify the water, which is good for the fish. Many cultures have made use of this cycle to grow better crops and nurture the fish as an additional food source. Rice paddies in the China and Thailand have used aquaponic techniques for years. The Aztecs developed a system of building floating islands for food-plants such as maize and squash. Fish propagated around the islands, leaving their waste on the lake bottom, where it could be collected to fertilize the plants.
Modern aquaponics is slightly more high-tech, but it’s still an efficient and environmentally friendly way to produce food. Fish (Sand Creek Farm uses tilapia) are kept in large tanks and the plants are grown hydroponically; that is, without soil. They are planted in beds with a little gravel or clay and their roots hang down into the water. The water is cycled through the system, so that it collects the “waste” from the fish; then it’s pumped to the plant beds, where it is filtered naturally by the plants and can then be returned to the fish tanks. Unlike traditional farming methods, no chemical fertilizers are needed for the plants: they all come from the fish-waste.
How about that for sustainable?
It’s a truly remarkable system, and we look forward to sharing more details and photos soon from Sand Creek Farm! In the meantime, let us know what you think of your organic aquaponic lettuce!
Learn more about aquaponics here.