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Bioponics: Looking back to see forward


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We have much to learn from peoples of “underdeveloped” countries around the world. In remote farming villages of China, fish ponds are managed with great efficiency, entirely eliminating the costs and complications seen with industrialized aquaculture. That is happening because their traditional utilizes a process of “nutrient cycling”.

To fertilize their ponds and raise lots of fish, Asian villagers plant mulberry trees along the perimeter, for their leaves, silkworm droppings and berries. They also immerse alfalfa grasses on a cyclical basis, to decompose the organic matter into the water to grow algae. With the plankton comes a food chain of bacteria, protozoans, zooplankton, duckweed, aquatic worms, water fleas, along with the nymphs of damselflies, the bloodworms of the midge, and so on, all feeding the fish or one and other, in a perpetual cycle of life. The pond becomes alive with a managed balance of organic fertility that is entirely site derived.

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That fertility extends to the shorline, where decomposing algae and bacteria nourish vegetative plants that are harvested for food. This could be referred to as a form of permaculture that goes beyond dry compost, integrating water, fish, and vegetation. But until now it has not been actively persued in its most efficient manner.

Aquaponics come close, combining fish and plants in a soil-less garden that relies on nitrifying bacteria to recycle fish urine into an organic fertilizer in a near-closed loop of self sufficiency. The cycle of fish food and fish urine is an important step but it overlooks the algae connection. 

The technique of nutrient cycling that looks to entirely close the loop on soil-less garden sustainability is referred to as “bioponics.” This technique reflects a more integrated farming ecosystems that protects environmental diversity, builds efficiencies, reduces labor and eliminates costs.

There is immense value in the reuse of nitrogen and phosphorus lost in yard trimmings, urine and the food scraps we discard as “waste”.  When these materials are recycled through vermicomposting, the earthworm imparts a level of fertility that goes far beyond the cycling of nutrients.   They add bacteria, fungi, enzymes, chitinase, growth hormones, nitrogen, minerals and phosphates, giving life to the soil. When earthworms, worm teas and worm castings are added to a bioponic system, their glory is on full display. When nutrients are cycled within bodies of water, exposed to sun a burst of life begins as algae is formed, zooplankton quickly appear as well as the larvae of insects are deposited in these healthy waters. When those nutrients flood plant beds or are flushed into fish tanks, they bring the very life that further recycles; becoming a food for fish, fertility to beds and living organisms to be broken down by bacteria and other decomposers in the plant bed, mimicking the life that happens in healthy, untouched soils. 

It is a timely moment for change, in our evolution of intensive farming methods that has progressed from soil based conventional and permacultural, to soil-less, water-conserving like hydroponics and aquaponics. With bioponics we can address today’s urgent concerns about climate change, natural disaster, food contamination, waste management, water conservation, wild animal depletion, fertilizer manufacture, fuel prices, environmental appreciation, science, green jobs and our unsustainable dependence on the worlds fragile infrastructure to supply us with food and water.

Bioponica™ is taking ideas like these as the Asians learned and the irrigation and plant bed fertility methods practiced by the Aztecs as well as the inclusion of worms like Charles Darwin would have insisted. We have built a very efficient garden that consumes waste and turns it into organic produce plus fish, crustaceans and worms.  Bioponica has created a closed loop garden with an intensive output by integrating a multitude of known and unknown ecosystems through recycling worms, worm teas and castings, plus algae, mycelia and cooperative bacteria into soil-less gardens.

Yet any  well designed system will do, as long as it supports a pure environment supporting a fragile life into a way of living.

Bioponic methods will likely be widely practiced by homes, farmers and communities worldwide as a practical means of simplifying food production by setting up systems that allow nature take care of itself and so, their hosts.

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About drdave

CoFounder of Algosolar, dba Bioponica. Consultant, designer, developer of Biogarden and Incubator Ecosystems for producing organic food and fish, sustainably.

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