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Aquaponics is a sustainable food production system that combines aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water, without soil) into an integrated system. In this system, the waste produced by the fish, ammonia, and undigested feed are converted by bacteria into nitrites and nitrates, which are absorbed by plants as fertilizer. This absorption by plants acts as a filtration/purification of the water, removing nitrogenous compounds harmful to fish, making it recyclable and returning it to the fish tanks. This closed cycle creates a sustainable environment where both fish and plants can thrive with mutual benefits, and water is preserved.

Aquaculture and hydroponics, when used together and in balance of micronutrients, represent a technology with the potential to play a key role in creating more sustainable agri-food systems, contributing to the mitigation of CO2 emissions.

Aquaponics is extremely efficient and environmentally friendly.

Hydroponic agricultural systems are a method of plant cultivation that does not use soil, but rather a nutrient solution based on water to provide the necessary nutrients for plant growth. In this system, plant roots are suspended in an inert substrate or directly in the nutrient solution, allowing them to absorb nutrients directly from the water.

Advantages of hydroponics:

Efficiency: Hydroponics uses less water and fertilizers than traditional agriculture, as a result of constant recirculation of the nutrient solution.

Productivity: A greater number of plants per cultivation area and accurate nutrition allow for higher yields than conventional agriculture.

Use of Natural Soil: Hydroponics, not being dependent on fertile soil, can be used in urban, industrial, and/or unproductive soil areas.

Quality: Plants grown hydroponically have the potential to be cleaner and healthier than those grown in soil.

Control: The farmer has more control over the growth environment in a hydroponic system.

Lower incidence of diseases: Well-nourished plants are stronger and able to defend themselves against pests and diseases.

What can be grown in hydroponics?

A wide variety of plants can be successfully grown in hydroponics, including:

Leafy greens: Lettuce, Cabbages, Spinach, Arugula, Watercress,

Herbs: Basil, Thyme, Chives, Mint, Parsley, Coriander, etc.

Flowers: Roses, lilies, orchids, etc.

Vegetables: Tomato, Cucumber, Pepper, Zucchini, Strawberries

Challenges of hydroponics:

Initial cost: Hydroponic systems can be more expensive to install than traditional cultivation systems.

Labor: Hydroponic systems require more monitoring and maintenance than traditional cultivation systems.

Knowledge: These are systems that require knowledge of terms such as pH and electrical conductivity, creating and correcting balanced nutrient solutions corresponding to the cultivation in question. They are sensitive systems where each decision has rapid impacts, for better or for worse.

The AmpliAqua project, led by BGI and with Nordic partners International Development Norway (IDN) and the Food4Sustainability Collaborative Laboratory, is an innovative pre-commercial unit of an aquaponic and multi-trophic system.

In this unit, fish will be raised, whose waste will be reused to fertilize plants grown in hydroponic systems. These, in turn, will purify the water that is returned to the fish. The system will also include a microalgae subsystem to filter wastewater.

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