AQUAPONICS: How Advanced Technology Allows Dr. Simon Goddek To Grow Vegetables In The Desert
Who would have ever thought that a bunch of fish can help produce organic fruits and vegetables? Well, that’s exactly what is happening with aquaponics, but it is much more complicated than it sounds.
According to the Aquaponic Source, “Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics that grows fish and plants together in one integrated system." Microbes, which are bacteria, allow the waste from the fish to provide an organic food source for the soilless plants by converting them into nitrates. While all of this is happening, the plants that are being fuelled by the fish are naturally filtering the water for those fish .
Ideally, this entire system is run inside of a massive greenhouse, but it must be kept at a particular temperature in order for the fish and plants to thrive in their environment. To find a technology advanced enough to complete such a complicated task is difficult. I asked Dr. Simon Goddek, an ecopreneur and scientist at Wageningen University [X], and the author of the book Aquaponics Food Production Systems (soon available), about the technology he plans to use for his upcoming aquaponic farm.
“In our new high-tech venlo-style greenhouses, we will use IOT technology to make them smart-houses” stated Goddek. “This IOT automation technology is used for climate control to keep the temperature stable by using its identifiers to predict weather data from outside the farm”.
IOT technology is another name for Internet of Things. This system, which has continued to develop since 1999, consists of interrelated computing devices and machines. These machines are provided with unique identifiers which gives the systems the ability to transfer data over a network without having to type anything into a computer .
In the case of aquaponics, this IOT technology is meant to employ multi-loop systems, which have been proven to be more efficient in growth than traditional one loop systems [Y]. While a one loop system only exposes the plants and fish to similar and thus unfavored conditions, it doesn’t allow technology to step in and help the plant grow faster. A multi-loop system aims at providing optimal conditions with respect to pH, EC, temperature, etc. for both fish and plants. In addition, the climate-smart approach of Dr. Goddek allows more technologies to control the environment by for example cooling the air through a special pad-and-fan cooling system and maintaining the nutrient concentrations for the plants on an industrial level. 
Since these farms will be set up in then middle of the desert, abundant solar energy sources will be available to contribute to the system’s self-sustainability. Goddek adds that by building these farms where food has never been grown before, a new era of farming and harvesting will be developed. Higher food demands for an increasing world population currently result in rainforest clearings, but could soon be shifted to arid desert regions.
“We will deploy our first farm in the Namib desert in Namibia. But we hope to build these farms in deserts throughout the Middle East in countries like Saudi Arabia, India, and Israel. The hope is to bring organic food to the malnourished.” explained Goddek.
The project is called desertfoods and is currently raising funds for the first one hectare pilot farm [Z]. Goddek’s ability to grow these foods in the desert will be judged over time, as it takes six to nine months to fully build one of these sites. Will deserts in the east be the home to new plants and farming goods? Or will it continue to be a dry, arid, and greenlees environment?
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Written by Robert Malzberg & Edited by Rachel Weissman & Alexander Fleiss
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