One of the beauties of aquaponics systems is their flexibility and scalability – regardless of plot size or position, an aquaponics system can be designed to suit. As a result, there is growing interest in their use in urban areas, whether it’s a basement, attic, garage, cupboard or warehouse.
This is important because, apart from the sustainable production of food, there are many secondary benefits to urban aquaponics systems. Their presence could help combat the dietary health problems prevalent within many cities by giving citizens access to affordable local fresh fish and vegetables.
Local food production could also help to reconnect children and adults with the sources of their food and nature in general, and evidence is mounting that exposure to nature in this way can have positive mental and physical health effects.
There is also a fantastic fit between aquaponics and the requirements of the national curriculum for biology, chemistry, physics, maths, and business studies, meaning aquaponics systems could provide excellent practical teaching resources for schools, or even be located within the schools themselves to provide produce for the canteen.
Such local production could also help to reduce the transport related carbon emissions and air pollution that result from the daily transportation of goods into urban areas.
Another benefit that stems from outdoor aquaponics systems is the potential to combat the ‘heat island’ effect. This is where urban areas become much warmer than surrounding rural areas during summertime, due to hard surfaces like rooftops, concrete and tarmac absorbing solar energy and releasing it when the sun goes down to artificially elevate ambient temperatures. Aquaponic farms on urban rooftops or disused sites could offset this effect by preventing the hard surfaces absorbing the solar energy in the first place.
With many cities in the UK having gone through an industrial contraction, there are now many such unused industrial sites, often in inner city areas, that would provide perfect areas for farms, and could provide a catalyst for urban regeneration.
Taken together this means urban aquaponics is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative and an ever more important area of research.