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7.2 Historical Development of Coupled Aquaponics

5 months ago

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Most original research efforts on coupled aquaponic systems took place in the USA with an increasing presence in the EU partly initiated by COST Action FA1305, The EU Aquaponics Hub and in other European research centres. Nowadays, fully recirculating aquaponic system designs almost completely dominate the American aquaponics industry, with estimates that over 90% of the existing aquaponic systems in the USA are of a fully recirculating design (Lennard, pers. comm.). The first American coupled aquaponics research was undertaken at the Illinois Fisheries and Aquaculture Center (formerly the SIU Cooperative Fisheries Research Laboratory) and the Department of Zoology, focusing on coupled aquaponic systems stocked with channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) in combination with tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) (Lewis et al. 1978). The authors noted that an optimal plant growth is only possible when all the essential macro- and micronutrients are available in the process water, and thus nutrient supplementation is required in the event of nutrient deficiencies. The authors also demonstrated a deficiency in plant-available iron, constraining plant growth, which could be solved through ironchelate supplementation. Other early studies in the USA focused on analysing technological functionality and the quality of the harvested channel catfish and tomatoes (Lewis et al. 1978; Sutton and Lewis 1982). Laboratory-scale aquaponic systems examined parameters, such as resource efficiencies with regard to materials, costs, water and energy consumption, and examined the use of other fish species such as Tilapia spp. in the US Virgin Islands (UVI) (Watten and Busch 1984). Dr. James Rakocy at the UVI developed the first commercial coupled aquaponic system, a raft system that combined the production of Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and later investigated the production of further plant species (Rakocy 1989, 2012; Rakocy et al. 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2011). This medium scale commercial installation took advantage of the local climate where greenhouses were not necessary and the market conditions of the Virgin Islands to generate profit. The UVI aquaponic system was subsequently adopted in different countries with respect to the respective needs of different plants and the appropriateness of the technology, e.g. in Canada by Savidov (2005) and in Saudi Arabia by Al-Hafedh et al. (2008). This is the case in Europe as well, where coupled aquaponic systems have evolved from the original UVI design, e.g. the vertical aquaponic system at the Aquaponics Research Lab., University of Greenwich (Khandaker and Kotzen 2018). Several other research departments investigated the technological feasibility of closed — or 'coupled' — aquaponics production using various fish and plant species as well as hydroponic subsystems to increase yields and reducing different emission parameters (Graber and Junge 2009). For example, at Rostock University (Germany), the research focused on the stability of backyard systems (Palm et al. 2014a), combining different fish species, African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), with different plants (Palm et al. 2014b, 2015). In 2015, a modern experimental semi-commercial scale aquaponic system, the 'FishGlassHouse', was built on the campus of the University of Rostock (Palm et al. 2016). However, the system was designed allowing both coupled and decoupled operations. Other notable facilities were built at the Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) at Waedenswil in Switzerland (Graber and Junge 2009; Graber et al. 2014), both coupled and decoupled research facility of the Icelandic company Svinna-verkfraedi Ltd. (Thorarinsdottir 2014; Thorarinsdottir et al. 2015), the cold water aquaponic system NIBIO Landvik at Grimstad (Skar et al. 2015; Thorarinsdottir et al. 2015), the PAFF Box (Plant And Fish Farming Box) one loop aquaponic system at Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech University of Liège, in Gembloux, Belgium (Delaide et al. 2017), the combined living wall and vertical farming aquaponic system at the University of Greenwich (Khandaker and Kotzen 2018), as well as the research-domestic coupled aquaponic system (changed from decoupled to coupled in 2018, Morgenstern and Dapprich 2018, pers. comm.) at the South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, i.GREEN Institute for Green Technology & Rural Development.