From: Eric Suen, University of California, San Diego
Published November 22, 2013 05:29 PM

A bigger fish (tank) story - EcoQube

Aqua Design Innovations is a University of California San Diego (UCSD) undergraduate startup. Economics major, Eric Suen (2015) and Biology major Kevin Liang (2014) spent the last year designing the EcoQube, a miniature ecosystem that they hope will become a part of peoples' homes and will inspire more people, especially children, to be more environmentally aware, particularly about aquaponics. The EcoQube is a vision that underlines the potential possibility of changing the way agriculture and aquaculture traditionally work.


 According to Suen, there are huge inefficiencies and environmental problems in the way that our food is produced.

Seventy percent of our global water consumption goes into agriculture, but only a fraction of that water is actually being used by the plants to grow. The water not being absorbed by plants is running off into our rivers and lakes, carrying pesticides and nutrients used in farming. This is extremely detrimental to our environment.

In addition, more than 8 billion gallons of water is being drawn for aquaculture every day in America. In order to keep this water clean for farming fish, it has to constantly be replaced.

In an attempt to eliminate the waste produced in both industries of aquaculture and agriculture, aquaponics conveniently combines the two methods of food production. Aquaponics is a symbiotic relationship between fish and plants where the fish provide the plants with nutrients from their waste and the plants provide the fish with clean, filtered water. 

From their research at Solutions Farm, one of the largest aquaponics farms in the United States, they believe that aquaponics is the future of sustainable, organic agriculture.

This method of growing fruits and vegetables uses 90-98% less water than traditional agriculture. It does this by keeping all of the water in use within a recirculating system that also houses the fish. Thus, the only water leaving the system is actually the water that the plants absorb and release through transpiration and evaporation.

Additionally, all of this farming is done in a controlled environment without soil. This eliminates soil borne diseases and insects, which mean no pesticides would need to be used!

With urban populations growing and our natural resources becoming more scarce, we need to change the way we are currently farming our food. This change starts with awareness and education at an early age.

Through the beauty of an accessible, scaled down aquaponics ecosystem like the EcoQube, we hope more people will learn about aquaponics and how it works.

Read more at the University of California San Diego, Moxie Center.

Image provided by Eric Suen, at USCD.

This story is part of the Collegiate Corner, a section of ENN that is dedicated to the research of students. All written work in this column is the product of the student entirely. If you have questions about the Collegiate Corner or would like to submit please contact:

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