It is not a coin toss. One of these methods IS head and shoulders above the other.
Commercial growers can easily become stressed and confused when deciding between the two methods that appear to be similar but in actuality are very different.
Aquaponics has quickly (over the past 30 years) moved from experimental to hobby and now to commercial. Commercial Aquaponic operations are showing up in more frequent numbers to fill the demand for “clean food”. Aquaponics does not have the abundance of clear data to follow that hydroponics offers.
Commercial Hydroponics is well proven and well established. There is an abundance of books, sites and data (sometimes overwhelming data) to guide the grower through the proper water chemistry, expected yields and the daily protocols. Professional experienced growers can easily be sourced & hired to manage the day to day operation.
Aquaponics is an eco system in a box.
So the operator must learn to embrace the ebb and flow of nature’s cycle. It is not nearly as black and white or definitive as hydroponic methods yet it is much simpler and can be equally productive. In a way, aquaponics is “cutting edge” when it comes to making clean, local, sustainably produced food available to everyone, everywhere. Among the biggest challenge for this fledgling industry is the lack of an experienced labor pool. This will force the owner to be “hands on” while training and establishing quality staff to take over the daily tasks.
Hydroponics is industrial, chemical based food production.
They are mixing a concoction of chemicals into the plant water based on what science has determined each specific plant species will need to best stimulate production. These chemicals can be expensive and consumed by the plants in high volumes. When the growing cycles are complete and the water is void of nutrients, the water is then dumped (disposed of), the system is sterilized and the cycle begins again. This chemical based formula provides consistent, predictable yields as long as the environment is precisely controlled.
A recurring long term challenge for hydroponic produce, has been, and is TASTE.
Most hydroponic produce fails the consumer taste test and has created a stigma for the industry. Much of our grocery and restaurant produce is hydroponically grown; however, with the occasional exception of “living lettuce”, you will not see an acknowledgement of the hydroponic method on any label or promotion. We have seemingly accepted the perfect looking; flavorless tomatoes on the vine along with other sub-flavored veggies that they produce in the shadows of nondescript labeling.
Let’s revisit the Eco System in a box.
Remember Your Grandparents’ Best Garden Tomatoes?
This method generates extraordinary flavors. In fact, most aquaponic growers boast of superior flavor with all the diversity of plants grown. A consistent example is that aquaponically grown tomatoes taste like your grandparent’s best garden tomatoes. This superior flavor is a major factor driving this industry’s growth along with the benefit of simultaneously producing volumes of harvestable, marketable, consumable fresh, clean fish.
Aquaponic water never gets “dumped”. Many growers believe that the water actually gets better with age. By recycling the water perpetually, aquaponics could very possibly be the most sustainable method of food production known to man.
The Ultimate Clean Food Source
Over shadowing the flavor, the fish and the sustainability is the organic output from the aquaponic system. Hydroponics is stimulating plants into production through the use of chemicals. Aquaponics is an organic process mimicking nature’s natural growing process and providing the “ultimate’ clean food source.
With the recent acknowledgment from the science and the medical communities that they have recognized cancer, heart disease, and diabetes as significantly dietary based illnesses, the public demand for clean, chemical free, locally produced, fresh food has skyrocketed and is continually getting stronger.
Today’s aquaponic grower cannot yet compete with the consistent, predictable output that hydroponics offers. But on the other side of the coin, the hydroponic grower cannot compete with the sustainability, the flavor and value found in chemical free, clean food produced aquaponically.
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