From underground aquaponic farms in the heart of Chicago to rooftop aquaponics using liquid oxygen, the symbiosis between fish farming and hydroponic vegetable growing is often touted as a holy grail of more sustainable food production.
But why stop at fish?
Aquaponics advocates Friendly Aquaponics have just proposed what may be an entirely new concept—"gatorponics"—and they believe that this system of farming alligators for meat, and then using their poop to feed hydroponic vegetable beds, could be the savior of many now-defunct chicken farms in the southern United States:
Here's how it works: get yourself a small to middle-sized defunct chicken farm, either in a foreclosure sale at ten cents on the dollar, or as a long-term lease of ten years or more duration. Ideally, you would find one that has chicken houses with four-foot-high concrete walls that the rest of the chicken house rests on: this type of chicken house is ideal for conversion into both alligator pens and greenhouses for your vegetables.
Strip the roofing and siding off about three-quarters of the houses, and install regular 6-mil poly greenhouse material onto them. Build aquaponics troughs inside these new greenhouses as per normal deepwater trough technology. Plumb the troughs in these new greenhouses into the other quarter of the houses that you convert into gator pens by filling in their doorways with concrete, installing new drains, energy-efficient water circulation pumps, and plumbing.
From the multiple revenue streams of meat, veggies and leather to the higher value of alligator meat to the potential for tourism-related activities, Friendly Aquaponics believe there are significant advantages over traditional aquaponic farms. In fact, they are so confident that they are offering their design and consulting services for free to the first person willing to try this out.
However, as Matt noted in his post on raising alligators for biodiesel, just because we can does not mean that we should. There are already those who argue that aquaponics is cruel, and it seems to me that raising large reptiles in concrete troughs is certainly a far cry from mimicking their natural environment.
And now TCLynx, another prominent aquaponics advocate, has come out and suggested that gatorponics may prove to be a health hazard too:
Come on Guys, e. coli is not the only food born pathogen we need to watch out for. Salmonella is something I don't want in my salad either! Now while there are lots and lots of strains of salmonella and some might not make a healthy person too sick, there are others that constitute a terrible case of food poisoning. It is also true that you may be unlikely to catch salmonella from a wild lizard or gator just in passing, just like you won't catch it from looking at chickens. Now if you handle those animals and then eat, smoke, or put your fingers in your mouth without washing your hands thoroughly first, then you can catch it. What does this mean for aquaponics using lizards or turtles instead of fish? Well it means you are contaminating the food with possibly salmonella tainted water by sending the feces laden water to your bio-filter and then on to your veggies.
So what do we think? Is gatorponics a viable method of more sustainable farming, or just factory farming by another name?