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Inside Industrial aquaponics

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”

Gertrude Jekyll

commercial greenhouse tomato on strings aquaponics

Scale to survive

Industrial type aquaponic systems have to be on a scale big enough to support its own distribution system at least and it also has to be big enough that buying the inputs is bulk will reduce the cost of them and that you can control and maintain customer relations with supermarket scale infrastructure.

Lettuces is all you can grow

Basically because of how the system is set up and you want the labor to be employed full time and maxed out the best crop to grow is lettuce as the transplants and harvesting can be averaged out along the workers time line evenly. Also it does not store and ship as well so local lettuce is best and not a lot of pest will attack it also can keep the planning density high enough thought the plants life cycle to cover infrastructure cost.

wicking beds in aquaponics machine

Labor and training

The cost to train low level works in high level systems is very high. In order to keep the cost of training and the availability of workers at optimal we have to grow crops and design systems that the training is minimal and that the work or jobs to be done are simple and easy to follow task. And you also need a way to separate the workers jobs from each other in order to quantify what needs to be done and has been done


The equipment cost in large projects is high and the use is often individually and can’t be easily moved or replaced. With specialist maintenance cost attached to that as well not much of the cost of the current farm can be moved over to the new farm and this is why most current framers wouldn’t consider aquaponics in its current form

Red tilapia harvested and sorted


This and other support systems needs to be a constant operation

If you ever thought you were paying to much for vegetables, keep reading.

We pay unjustified amounts of money for vegetables just because it is more convenient than finding the time and energy to grow our own. There is a solution for those of us that don’t want to pay so much for vegetables, don’t care enough to garden yet want the benefits of fresh, chemical free vegetables?

It’s called Aquaponics: The next time you and a friend are near a fresh water fish whether its in an aquarium or a pond we all now have and idea worthy of a conversation. Getting these ideas to the people willing to use them is what will make healthy cheap food a reality.

close up of qunioa with ladybug

The simplicity of the technology is deceiving, after all it is really a miniature river ecosystem held in a man made container. Using fishy water to grow plants sounds very basic because when you feed fish all the water born waste builds up and you have to clean it eventually. Usually we water soil-based plants with the dirty water. What makes Aquaponics so convenient is the fact that you can use plants to clean that water and return the very same water for the fish to dirty it up again making a never ending cycle.

wicking beds of coco coir growing corn

To make this relationship work efficiently you would need to make some minor adjustments to the conventional way we farm. I will list them below.

  • The biggest change is getting rid of the soil. This is because the plants roots will be submerge in fishy water majority of the time and the soil does not drain fast enough. It is replaced by coconut husk which is lighter, drains faster and has no weed seeds or soil borne diseases or parasites.
  • There is also a need for electricity to power a small pump that circulates the water between the fish and the plants. The movement also oxygenates the water so that the fish or plant roots don’t suffocate.
  • Because it is a modification of a natural process maintenance is minimal, You don’t have to water or fertilize your plants (that’s the fish and pump’s job) and you don’t have to clean the fish water (that’s the plants job).
  • The nerd explanation; the fish waste contains ammonia nitrate that is converted by the aerobic bacteria culture of nitrosomas into nitrites that the plants then uptake tough the roots.

daily harvest from commercial aquaponic system

You don’t have to find the cure for all the problems in the agriculture sector we just stay informed and keep spreading the ideas that can make a difference. There are two cutting edge Aquaponic farms in the Caribbean one in Barbados, St. George (Suga Water Farms), it’s run by Baird’s Village Aquaponic Association (BVAA) and funded in part by UNDP. The other is at the University of the Virgin Islands.


Equal parts technology enthusiast, carpenter, kitchen designer, farmer, capitalist, domesticated father and tree-hugger, I dissected and negotiated myself into a life that brings me both pleasure and pain upon coming to the realization that I cannot save mother earth from Human nature and my only recourse is to do more good than harm through Aquaponics. All of my work can be found here in these 12 main and the supporting pages I use to valiantly put forth this hypothesis.

Damian HInkson

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