October 27, 2011
Maybe it's due to the struggling economy, or a desire to remove processed foods from our diets. Maybe it has to do with the rising costs of fresh food and increasing efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.
Whatever the reason, home gardening and food production is increasing in popularity.
From 2008 to 2009, the number of home gardens in the United States increased from 36 million to 43 million, according to the National Gardening Association, earning gardeners a $21 billion return on their $2.5 billion investment.
Here in Tucson, a new facet of the home-gardening trend is taking shape: Avid gardeners, amateurs and curious newcomers are working together to start an aquaponics movement—a sustainable gardening practice that incorporates elements of hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in a water-only environment) with aquaculture (the raising of aquatic life, such as fish or prawns).
Casey Townsend, a master gardener and aquaponics advocate, is heading up the Tucson AquaPonics Project, a group aimed at sharing advice, information and techniques for those interested.
"It's a viable technique, just not well-known," says Townsend.
The basic structure of an aquaponics system is to have a large-scale fish tank, which circulates water through beds where plants are growing. The fish waste fertilizes and feeds the plants, and in turn, the plants clean the water so that it can re-circulate back into the fish tank, creating a closed system.
"Really, you're not just growing fish or plants; what you're really growing is bacteria," says Townsend. "What makes it all work are the bacteria, which convert fish waste in to nutrients for the plants...."
Read the full article - www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/fishy-growing/Content?oid=3171906