In the project "Smart Marine Aquaponics" aims to develop new, affordable sensors for the monitoring and control of relevant water quality parameters (University of Groningen, The Netherlands). In addition, the projects examines whether the release of nutrients from fish faeces can be accelerated by technical processes.
Aquaponics, i.e. the combined culture of fish and plants, originates in Mexico as well as South China, Thailand and Indonesia. In these countries fish were and are still farmed in rice fields. The idea behind it is that nutrients released by the fish are utlizied by the plant for growth, nutrient recycling. Modern agricultural and fish farming systems require large amounts of energy, water and nutrients and, due to technological constraints, release nutrients into the environment and contribute to climate change. Consequently, research has rediscovered the ancient combination of fish and plants for resource recyclying and is currently trying to develop intensive low emission aquaponic systems.
Since the 1970th, research and development on modern intensive aquaponics is conducted predominantly in the United States of Amerika. Despite 50 years of research however, according tot he United States Department of Agriculture there are not more than 71 commercial aquaponic farms in the United States (in 2010).
There are several bottlenecks which may have hampered the commercial success of this production type. Firsty, plants and fish have different requirements to water qualities which makes it difficult to combine bothfish and plants in one system. Secondly, nutrients released by the fish do not meet the nutrientional requirement nedded for optimal plant growth. This is especially important since plants contribute to a large extent on the profitability. Thirdly, nutrients released by the fish in form of fecal waste are not readily available to plants. A liberation of nutrients bound in the fecal biomass matrix is needed. Lastly, current monitoring sensor systems are expensive.