Aquaponics - helping us survive on this planet

From November 11 - 13, NOA Fisheries played host to the third commercial aquaponics course in Canada with an impressive crowd of 42 participants from across the US and Canada!

Aquaponics is the marriage of aquaculture (fish) and hydroponics (plants). The brilliance here is that both technologies, although successful in their own industry, produce a waste stream in the form of nitrogen-rich fish poop for aquaculture and depleted nutrient solution for hydroponics.

Put the technologies together and what was treated as a waste stream (fish poop) now becomes a resource (organic fertilizer), thereby eliminating the need for industrially-produced nutrient solution (petrochemical fertilizer).

This all happens through a natural biological process called "The Nitrogen Cycle". Essentially, we employ ever-present nitrogen-loving bacteria to break down the fish waste from harmful ammonia (rotting organic matter) into nitrites, and then from nitrites into plant-loving nitrates! (picture via Backyard Aquaponics).

NitrogenCycleThe workshop was held at The University of Alberta in Edmonton and featured cutting edge research from aquaponic and aquaculture experts, Charlie Shultz (Lethbridge College and University of the Virgin Islands), Dr. Nick Savidov (AB Agriculture and Rural Development), Dr. James Tidwell (University of Kentucky), Jim Wagner (AESRD), and industry representatives.

The course, complemented by a 900+ page(!) Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) textbook, explained how to design and maintain an aquaponic system of any size from home-based to large-scale commercial and included:

  • types of aquaponic technology (media, NFT, DWC)
  • best practices for commercial system design,
  • water quality, food safety, and plant production,
  • tilapia and freshwater prawn breeding,
  • business management, and
  • tours of aquaponics projects at the UofA Bio Sciences building, Jasper Place High School, and The Alberta Crop Diversification Centre North

The summary of learning from the course is to start small, understand that this is an emerging industry with enormous potential for local AND global food security, and realize that right now (and for a long time!) this technology presents us with viable options for surviving in genuine wealth and prosperity on this planet. Using permaculture design, these systems can produce upwards of 30x greater yields than industrial-scale agriculture (i.e., monoculture commodity production):

Video: Dr. Nick Savidov (AB Agriculture & Rural Development) and Jason Oziel (NOA Fisheries)

For more info on the course visit

And to see photos from the site tours visit The Centre for Urban Agriculture in Alberta.

Later in December, ReThink Red Deer through The Root Cellar: ecoStore & Apothecary will be hosting "An Introduction to Permaculture: Productive Pets Edition" in Red Deer to build an IBC aquaponic system for The Food Garage Project. For more information and to register for the Intro seminar click here.

- Submitted by Rene Michalak


I loved the workshop! I'm so excited to begin exploring these ideas with my own system in the months ahead! Looking forward to the Food Garage getting this working at the residential level in Alberta. Great to meet you Rene.