Florida’s springs, part II: conservation & innovation

One thing we’re looking to do is adapt some ultra-low-water-use techniques to Florida’s conditions. One of those techniques is aquaponics, or using the wastewater from fish farming to grow vegetables.

Most of the pollution associated with fish farming comes from the first-generation model of aquaculture. Take in lots of clean water. Let the fish poop in it until it’s no longer fit to live in. Throw it out and repeat. It gave fish farming a bad reputation which, frankly, this style of aquaculture deserves. It’s a waste of costly nutrients– fish feed isn’t cheap– that feed algae blooms and other problems that foul up perfectly good lakes, rivers, and coastlines.

Another approach is to run that yummy stuff through some hydroponic vegetables and ta-daa, instead of pollution you have vegetables. Or to put it in business terms: instead of pollution you have more income and jobs for the local economy. Seems like a no-brainer.

Hydroponics is good for cutting down water use too. When you water plants out in the field, especially here where our soil is so sandy it’s like a sieve, a lot of the water you put on plants will run straight down. Water conservation techniques like drip irrigation will reduce this wastage but not eliminate it. When flood, sprinkler, and other traditional irritation techniques are used on our soils, plants will never even see the majority of the water you give them.

On the other hand, hydroponics is a closed system. The only way water leaves in hydroponics is evaporation and transpiration through the leaves. An aquaponic system also loses a bit (1-3% per day) from during flush cycles to remove accumulated waste solids. One of our goals for the pilot scale this summer is to find some constructive uses for the “chunky” flush water. More on this and other water conservation practices later.

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