In recent times, the estimated total current investment in aquaculture including hatchery facilities and equipment in Nigeria has risen to about N10 billion (US$75 million). There are about 30 small-, medium- and large-scale intensive, closed recirculating and flow-through systems especially in the southwest and south-south zones where over 77 percent of all fish farms and hatchery infrastructures are located.
In light of the advent of aquaculture as a highly incentivized business venture in Nigeria, it has become pertinent to put into perspective the necessity for the proper disposal or in this case, utilization of waste associated with fish farming. In a world in dire need of environmental solutions, the subject of Aquaponics has become quite popular when discussing aquaculture.
Aquaponics can be described as the fusion of aquaculture and hydroponic operations in a dynamic, natural, closed ecosystem to produce both fish and organic vegetables with little or no harm to the environment. One of the biggest costs in an Aquaculture operation is filtering the water free of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate accumulations. However, when combined with hydroponics, the plants are the sole source of filtration as well as a great source of income. In comparison to hydroponics alone, aquaponics doesn’t require system purges or dumps or expensive chemicals that must be constantly replenished to grow the food.
Aquaponics boasts benefits for both aquaculture and hydroponic operations which in effect, eliminates costly practices in either one. Although it requires some initial start-up costs, once a system is up and running aquaponics can generate a greater variety of food (including the more-costly protein portion) than conventional gardening can.
Products of aquaponics are 100% chemical free (organic) and all natural because Fish waste is used as an input for plant growth so no fertilisers are required. Conventional pesticides are not feasible in aquaponics because they would kill the fish and bacteria, so if needed natural alternatives are used. Aquaponics energy usage is from 70% to 92% less than a conventional or organic farm which use fuel and/or petrochemical-intensive fertilizers. All energy used is electrical, so alternate energy systems such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric can be used to power an aquaponic farm 100%. This alternate energy can be produced locally.
The sustainable quality of Aquaponics is a valuable addition to its numerous benefits. Once an aquaponic system is up and running the main input required is fish-feed. No fertilisers, pesticides or chemical nutrients are needed. Since water is reused through biological filtration and continually circulated in a closed-loop systems – with only a small amount lost through transpiration and evaporation, additional irrigation is also not necessary. Moreover, Aquaponics can easily incorporate renewable technology, thus making it even less energy dependent.