It’s an ancient practice with a new twist. Aquaponics is a mashup of hydroponics (growing plants in a water medium) and aquaculture (fish farming). It is the practice of using fish wastewater as fertilizer for plants, whose roots filter the water, cleaning it sufficiently to be returned to the fish.
In this episode, we visit homeowners, non-profit, and even a restaurateur using this highly efficient system to grow a stunning array of fruits, vegetables, and freshwater fish. In the city of Santee, we meet an engineer who grew frustrated with his backyard raised beds and set out to find a better way. Today, he has two fishponds, one that holds 800 gallons filled with catfish and tilapia, and an ingenious series of vegetable growing bins made of recycled beverage containers. Pumps and timers keep it all going, whether he is home or out of town. He grows enough to provide most of the produce and a significant amount of protein for his family of four.
In Escondido, Eco-Life Institute has a history of creating conservation programs that regard the environment and humans as a whole. Aquaponics to them is a way to grow food in regions with little arable land and a minimum of water. Their prototype system in Escondido is part of a larger educational program that also puts demonstration aquaponics systems into schools. We visit a middle school garden club and science program in Vista that is one of their sites. We spend a day with the students, learning to assemble a medium sized aquaponics system in the school garden.
In Brea California, we visit chef Adam Navidi, owner of Ocean and Earth Restaurant. Navidi’s aquaponics system fills 10 recycled greenhouses on 65 acres of former nursery land. There, Navidi raises 20,000 tilapia along with thousands of heads of lettuce, basil, and other produce that he uses in his restaurant. Navidi is an avid recycler and reuser so the greenhouses have many different styles of aquaponics systems, some invented by Navidi himself. After touring the facility, we head to Ocean and Earth in nearby Yorba Linda to enjoy the products of Navidi’s efforts (and they are delicious!).