Friday, 13 November 2015 10:08



Aquaponics System

On first hearing you might assume Aquaponics is the new villain in the Next Spider-Man movie. In fact aquaponics is: ‘a system for farming fish and plants together in a mutually beneficial cycle.’ It works like this: fish produce waste that turns into nitrates and ammonia. The nitrates and ammonia are harmful to the fish if they build up, but they are perfect fertilizer for plants. The plants absorb these nutrients to grow, and in doing so, clean the water, which is good for the fish. In summary the fish provide waste which feeds the plants and the plants filter the water which keeps the fish healthy.

There is a hidden third party in this cycle, namely microbes (nitrifying bacteria) and composting red worms who convert the ammonia and solids from the fish waste into nitrates and vermin-compost, which are the specific compounds that the plants feed on.

This circular three part system both maximizes the benefits of each part, whilst at the same time minimising the drawbacks.

Interestingly throughout history many farming cultures have made use of this cycle to grow better crops, as well as taking advantage of the fish as an additional food source. The Aztecs for example used the cycle when they built floating islands for crops such as maize and squash. The fish would congregate around the islands, leaving their waste on the lake bottom, where it would be collected as fertilizer for the crops.

One of the most prolific current users of aquaponic techniques are the rice farmers of the Ayeyarwaddy Region, right here in Myanmar.

They have used aquaponic techniques for years. They farm a particular type of rice that can grow in deeper water, deep enough for fish to be kept in the paddy field as well – the fish leave waste, the plants absorb the waste, the water is kept clean,


Modern aquaponics is becoming more and more high-tech. In modern systems fish are kept in large tanks and the plants are grown without soil (hydroponically). They are planted in beds with a little gravel or clay and their roots hang down into the water. A Deep Water Culture takes this one step further and the plants actually grow directly into waste rich water without a soil medium. In

this technique plants can be spaced closer together because the roots no longer need to branch out to support the plant's weight. In all cases water is pumped through the system, initially from the fish tanks where it collects waste, then to the plant bed where the waste fertilises the plants and lastly the cleaned water is pumped back into the fish tanks.

All types of aquaponic techniques are an efficient and environmentally friendly way to produce food. No chemical fertilizers are needed as all the nutrirents come from the fish-waste. Aquaponics also tends to be organic, because pesticides are harmful to the fish. Also traditional plant-growing, consumes a lot of water, whereas in modern ‘closed’ systems very little water is consumed as there is very little evaporation and the same water is constantly recycled. You can grow many types of plants on aquaponic farms (whether commercial or home sized), especially leafy plants and herbs. In modern systems the most commonly used fish is tilapia, although many others species are suitable.

Here in Myanmar there is rich tradition of aquaponics in farming. The most recent scheme to be bought to the table is setting up aquaponic farms to rehabilitate the victims of human trafficking. The idea is being championed by Brenda Gifford the Chairman of Run Against Trafficking Myanmar a charity organisation that is working to spread awareness and help prevent

human trafficking here in Myanmar.

One of the biggest issues faced by victims of trafficking is rehabilitation back into society as in many cases they are not accepted back into their family or community, particularly if they have been involved in the sex industry. Run Against Trafficking Myanmar has teamed up with US based aquaponics group HHearth (Him Her The Earth ), in a hope that they can establish a chain of High-Tech aquaponic farms here in Myanmar which will double up as shelters and centres to victims of trafficking. These farms will provide a home and teach trafficking victims the skills they have missed to rejoin the wider community. The idea is still very much in infancy but it is a modern and inventive solution to a pertinent problem.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Run Against Trafficking

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Brenda Gifford

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Race Chairman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Ph: +959795956540

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Email: [email protected]

Read times Last modified on Monday, 16 November 2015 08:37
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