aquaponic system photo aquaponic system photo Aquaponic system closeup. (Photo: Ryan Somma / Flickr)

Urban farming ecosystem provides organic food with zero waste

Aquaponics grows fish and vegetables sustainably in an all inclusive system.

By 2050, scientists believe that 70 percent of the U.S. population will live in urban areas with insufficient land left over to grow food. The challenge becomes how to feed tightly populated cities with fewer natural resources nearby.  

Aquaponics, a three-part farming method in which fish provide tons of nutrient-rich waste that becomes a natural fertilizer for plants, could provide a solution. 

A small, energy-efficient pump delivers the water to hydroponic grow beds located just above the fish tank. These grow beds do not require soil; instead, they get all the nutrients they need from the fish waste, which nourishes suspended roots. The roots then filter the water back down into the fish tank, providing clean, healthy water for the fish to thrive. 

Re-circulation is another benefit of aquaponics – gardeners and larger-scale farmers don’t have to discard the fish waste. This makes a big difference when you consider that the average salmon farm today releases the same amount of raw sewage into the environment as does a town of 65,000 people. 

In aquaponics, rather than polluting soil and groundwater, all that waste is used as plant food. At the same time, fish grow in a healthy, clean environment of filtered water provided through plant roots.

The system is beneficial to developing nations, said CEO Moti Cohen and his team at Israel's LivingGreen, a recent winner of the Pear Challenge award. “Most of the financing, as well as the main incentive to distribute and install our food production units, has come from local and international institutions... that promote national projects in developing countries.”

LivingGreen has come up with a viable solution in the form of a modular LivingBox that provides a complete zero waste system of food production. 

Each year Pear Challenge awards an Israeli start-up a cash prize of $20,000 for harnessing solutions to critical barriers of international development. The prize is intended to help Israeli startups like LivingGreen accelerate their sustainable businesses. This year, the company’s modular growing boxes took the prize for creating a simple food production system. 

LivingBox's design is similar to LEGO blocks that fit together, as the system is made up of modular units that provide multiple growing spaces, making it work for a small patio garden, rooftops, educational systems for schools or a large commercial system for local food production. The system functions without electricity or soil.

But LivingGreen also positions their boxes as supporting a growing awareness for healthy, fresh and pesticide free foods in urban areas where space is limited. 

“With the growth of urban areas, urban farming has become a substantial solution for food production; LivingBox provides an answer for this rising market.” 

LivingBox provides two pure and natural end products--vegetables grown without pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals as well as fish grown without hormones or antibiotics--providing all aspects of a nutrient rich diet. It’s a promising invention in a world where space and resources are finite.

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