“Balance is the Key to Life”

Just as it is key to balance your career, relationships, and health in life, it is important to maintain a careful balance between the various parts of an aquaponic system; the fish, the plants, and the bacteria. Since these components are connected in a continuous cycle, they have a direct influence on each other. Even though each individual aspect is beneficial, just as aspects of life, too much of one can cause major issues. For example, the plants in aquaponics filter the water for the fish, and adding more plants improves water quality. The issue arises though when there are so many plants that there is not enough nutrients for each plant, and the entire system suffers.

The key is to find the correct balance so that each part has what is necessary to thrive. But this is not easy to do. It requires commitment, patience, and a bit of trial and error to get it right. The good news is that issues that arise are rarely irreversible, and the rewards of having a balanced system are remarkable.




Lessons about Life

One of the many benefits of growing your own food is that it teaches you many lessons. Some of the lessons that I have been reflecting on this week are patience, value, and responsibility.

Food takes time to grow. This is a fact that is easy to forget in this day and age when a 5 minute trip to the grocery store instantly gives us access to food grown across the continent. Even with an aquaponics system speeding up growth, heads of lettuce or kale can still take 4 – 6 weeks before they are ready to harvest. Having this aquaponics system growing food has reminded me that food doesn’t grow instantly, and that I have to be patient with the process and wait to harvest the food.

This also ties in with the value of our food; not only the nutritional value, but how we value our food. Food is important, clearly, as we need nutrition to live our lives, but some people are unable to get the basic nutrition they need. At the same time, large quantities (close to 50% according to a policy brief from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Stockholm International Water Institute, and the International Water Management Institute) of the food produced worldwide is being thrown out. One of the main reasons for this food being wasted is because it doesn’t look perfect. People don’t value misshapen apples or carrots as much as their “normal” counterparts. I think people who grow their own food value food differently. It doesn’t really matter how it looks because you’re just as proud that with your help this life-giving food was grown, and you’re been patiently waiting for it to mature.

Finally, it is quite something to be responsible for the lives of many living creatures. Sure, I have taken care of my dog Biscuit for years now, but she can tell me when something is wrong. Fish and plants are much more sensitive and less obvious about communicating their needs, but I am learning the signals they do give. The process of learning these signals has not been easy, and we have had fish die that we have been nurturing for weeks. With 11 days until our wedding, Anna and I aren’t yet thinking about having children, but I know this responsibility that I feel for the fish and plants in the aquaponics system is just a shadow of the responsibility of raising children. Like raising children, it can be worrisome to have such responsibility, but it can also be very rewarding to see them grow and mature.

When Jake and I started building the aquaponics system several weeks ago, I thought I was going to learn about biology, business, and engineering. I have learned about those things, but I never imagined that it would teach me lessons about life as well. As we continue to work with  aquaponics systems over the next months and years to come, Jake and I will not only continue to learn, but will strive to share these lessons with others, especially children.



Andrew checking on the plants.

Andrew checking on the plants in the aquaponics system. Photo credit: Gracen Johnson.