Year-round indoor farming.

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a type of food production system that combines aquaculture with hydroponics (growing plants with their roots directly in water).

This type of system allows farmers to produce aquaculture species (such as tilapia or charr) and plants at the same time (Rizal et al., 2018). The water from the aquaculture tanks is flowed to the grow areas where the plants are so they can absorb the nutrients from the fish waste. The cleaned water is then returned to the aquaculture tanks and the cycle continues (Figure 1).

  1. Fish produce waste
  2. The fish tank water is pumped through a biofilter
  3. The nutrients in the fish waste feed the crops
  4. After the nutrient removal, the cleaned water is returned back to the fish tank

Figure 1. The aquaponics cycle. Aquaponics is based upon the nitrification cycle, where ammonia is converted into nitrites and then nitrates. Plants are then able to soak up the nutrients from the plants, which filters the water. The cycle continues.

Ísponica combines aquaponics and vertical farming together for an environmentally-friendly and year-round farm in Hólar, Iceland.

Benefits of indoor aquaponics include:

  • Uses less water than traditional soil agriculture because it recycles the water continuously
  • Effective nutrient use, which minimizes waste
  • Year-round growing
  • Fewer pests because it is indoor agriculture
  • Producing both fish and plants
  • Producing crops in challenging environments, where agriculture may be difficult or otherwise impossible


What is vertical farming?

Vertical farming is a method of agriculture that grows crops in vertically stacked layers, such as on shelves or wall-mounted systems.

Because crops are grown upwards in layers, minimal space is required and more crops can be produced. This means that crops can be grown in areas that may not have much land available, such as cities. Being able to increase food production into towns and cities is valuable because it decreases the distance food has to travel, elevates sustainability goals, lowers poverty, and contributes to the well-being of community members (Kalantari et al., 2017).

Aquaponics and vertical farming technology is rapidly evolving in countries around the world. Because of its design, indoor vertical farms can be placed practically anywhere, particularly in areas with difficult climates or limited growing space. This increases food accessibility and security. As populations grow and cities increase in size, vertical farms will help in providing a reliable food supply as well as lowering the carbon footprint by producing food close by (Kalantari et al., 2020). Another benefit of indoor farms includes indoor production regardless of growing season or inclement weather. This means fresh produce year-round and avoiding seasonal employment (e.g., employees have work year-round).

Kalantari, F., Mohd Tahir, O., Mahmoudi Lahijani, A., & Kalantari, S. (2017). A review of vertical Farming technology: A guide for implementation of building INTEGRATED agriculture in cities. Advanced Engineering Forum, 24, 76-91. doi:10.4028/</span

Rizal, A., Dhahiyat, Y., Zahidah, Andriani, Y., Handaka, A. A., & Sahidin, A. (2018). The economic and social benefits of an aquaponic system for the integrated production of fish and water plants. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 137, 012098. doi:10.1088/1755-1315/137/1/012098