Desktop ecosystem showcases aquaponics as a solution to food and water shortages

EcoQube C aquaponics system

The all-new version of the EcoQube could be a low-maintenance "window to nature" for your desk, and a great introduction to aquaponics.

In the face of extreme drought, moving toward systems that produce more food with less water is a worthy venture, and while there may be many ways to address water and food issues, aquaponics might be one of the most promising. With yields of both fish and plants from successful aquaponics systems possible at rates up to 50% faster than conventional growing, while using 90% less water, aquaponics could be a huge player in the future of agriculture in a warmer, drier climate.

Aquaponics, which we've covered fairly regularly here on TreeHugger, isn't a new method by any means, but it's certainly not a common concept for many of us. Essentially, aquaponics integrates fish production with vegetable production, with the plants using the waste of the fish as fertilizer, and the plants serving as a filtering system for the water. Growing with this method can bypass the need for heavy fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide applications (all of which can negatively affect groundwater and surface water due to runoff), and can be a denser food production method, effectively producing twice as much food in the same amount of space as a traditional soil-based garden bed.

But if aquaponics is so efficient and productive, why aren't we seeing wider adoption of the system? According to Kevin Liang, co-founder of Aqua Design Innovations (ADI), it's more of an education problem, not a feasibility issue. Not enough people know where their food comes from, or what the water footprint of their diet is, even in light of continuing media coverage of drought and food issues, and not very many people know about alternative agriculture methods such as aquaponics.

To address this issue, Liang and his partner, Eric Suen, developed the original EcoQube, which was launched in 2013 as a way to effectively showcase both the concept and the beauty of aquaponics to a larger audience. And now they're back with an improved version, the EcoQube C, which has a smaller physical footprint and a lower price point, as well as being accompanied by a science curriculum that can help teach the basics of aquaponics.

"We believe aquaponics is a clear solution to many of the food and water shortages humanity faces today. While this food production method was used thousands of years ago in early Aztec and Chinese civilizations, it has since fallen into disuse and become largely forgotten.

We hope to educate as many people as possible about the practical solution and beauty of aquaponics and to ultimately help initiate the process of bringing aquaponics to the forefront of today's agriculture." - ADI

As an incentive for early backers of the EcoQube C crowdfunding campaign, those who pledge at least $39 to the project today (April 7, 2015) can receive one of the first units, which are expected to retail at twice that amount. You can still pledge to support the campaign after today and receive an EcoQube C, but the early bird deal only lasts one day. Find out more about these desktop aquaponics demonstration units at the ADI website.

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