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Why aquaponics is vitally important today

We are facing the emergence of a new food crisis. From fertilisers to fuel for agricultural machinery, the raw and subsidiary materials that feed the global agricultural sector are proving to be in short supply.

How important is all this? This shortage, which began about 2 years ago and originated from a set of global geopolitical factors that have been unfolding over the past few months, imposes enormous pressure on agriculture and creates greater difficulty for farmers to perform their noble function of feeding the world. The already visible consequence is upward pressure on global food prices. In some countries, such as the US, food prices are already rising faster than ever on record (a record 13% jump last month alone). Prices in Portugal are also starting to rise, already visible in fish and cereals.

The political measures justified by the pandemic have led to a shortage of raw materials, ingredients, and supplies of food, together with the issuing of currency on an unprecedented scale. Such facts would inevitably lead to inflation, as pronounced by several economic analysts. Now, the war between Russia and Ukraine - adding the Covid lockdowns in China's agricultural provinces, coinciding with the burning of several large food processing plants in the US - are precipitating the situation, aggravating what was already serious. China is buying corn, wheat and soybeans in record quantities, a fact brought about by the fear of food shortages that has historically plagued this country over its long past.

Wheat and maize price quotations have risen more than 19% in the past month as war and sanctions crush supply from the key Black Sea region. Staple foods are running short as Ukrainian wheat fields are bombed and critical shipping ports remain closed.

Exports from Ukraine and Russia, which account for about a quarter of the world's grain trade, are virtually blocked, raising concerns of food shortages. The two countries are key players in several industries on a global scale, such as computer chips and electronics, sunflower oil, grains, oil and timber. Ukraine produces something around 70-90% of the world's neon gas, which is a vital component of the microchips used to make smartphones and computer screens. Russia accounts for 13% of the world's crude oil exports, which means that anything that requires transport at any stage of production - almost anything - will be impacted.

We are already seeing staple food prices rising in Portugal and the various factors mentioned above will continue to put pressure on agricultural systems and supply chains.

The largest source of fertiliser for conventional agriculture is chemically manufactured ammonia (ammonia is a nitrogen compound with the formula NH₃). Whether chemically manufactured or generated from the natural excretions of cows, chickens, pigs or other sources, all of these streams give rise to the ammonia that provides the nutrients that make the production of our food supply viable.

Why Aquaponics?

One of the unique differentiating factors of aquaponics is the source of the ammonia we use in this production technique - Fish (for food consumption). Through their gills and waste, fish naturally generate ammonia, introducing it into a virtuous local circular and totally closed ecosystem called Aquaponia. The ammonia generated by the fish is converted into plant-available fertiliser through the process of nitrification, carried out by micro-organisms. This process then returns clean water to the fish, being continuously recycled by the plants.

Now is the time to invest in aquaponics, either on a commercial or domestic scale, thus ensuring a continuous, healthy and reliable source of food for your family.

Aquaponics can be done on any scale, from a small kitchen or backyard system to a large greenhouse production unit. Food4Sustainability's aquaponics trainer has already trained hundreds of people in several countries in this clever and naturally successful art of aquaponics.

Come and learn with our workshop "Aquaponics - Introduction to Principles and Practices", taking place on the weekend of 18th and 19th June, in Torres Vedras, Portugal. Learn more here!

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