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Agriculture: Backyard farming of crops, fishes

More Filipinos, including urban dwellers, are taking interest in Aquaponics, which combines hydroponic gardening or growing plants in water, with aquaculture or rearing of fish in tanks. Plants and fish are grown in an integrated system, creating a symbiotic relationship between the two. The technology has been described as “smart” agriculture because it is self-sustaining and requires minimal space for a simple setup.

The advantages of Aquaponics are many. It is not dependent on arable soil and uses less water. Plant nutrients are supplied by fish poop. Plant beds can be raised and are thus easier to tend than in conventional farming. And some plants grow well on aquaponics compared to soil-based farming.

Ideal for farming in crowded population centers, Aquaponics can produce healthy, organic food for the family. The system can be set up in a backyard, condo veranda, or unused car garage.  It can be educational as children learn how plants and fish grow and they see the ecology interactions among the fish, the plants, and their environment. It is easy to operate and requires low maintenance, since there is no need to weed, water, and cultivate soil. Its benefits can be enjoyed by urban poor communities where soil-based farming is not possible. Fertilizers are easy to produce, even in one’s backyard using available materials.

Among the crops that can be grown through Aquaponics are fast-growing tomato, bell pepper, strawberry, lettuce, kangkong, pechay, and other leafy vegetables. Tilapia and freshwater prawns can be grown under the aquaculture component.

Aquaponics is a promising technology being encouraged by many Philippine cities and towns. It is a good alternative to growing fish and vegetables during droughts and other extreme weather which impact on conventional farming.