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A Recipe For Change: Aaron Hart on Applied Agriponics

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Applied agriponics is essentially the use of aquaponic and hydroponic systems to grow food without using soil. The field is continuing to expand, but the benefits of growing with water prove to be just as efficient as growing in traditional soil, and many of the same crops can be grown in aquaponic and hydroponic systems.

Aaron Hart is the CEO and Special Projects Manager of Applied Agriponics Solutions, which installs indoor and outdoor gardening systems while educating and consulting on what kind of system to use or improving an existing system to yield more crops. Hart and his company support the idea of sustainable gardening by using up less water and land by using industry-standard materials. Hart will be speaking at the 18th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Recipe for Change: Better Farms, Better Flavors, which will be held on Feb. 20-21, 2015, at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga. We talked to him about applied agriponics and how it allows for higher crop yields and more sustainable gardens.

What is agriponics and how do hydroponic and aquaponic systems contribute to it?
Agriponics is aquaponics and hydroponics:
Fish + plants + water = aquaponics
Plants + water = hydroponics
Aquaponics + hydroponics + food system = agriponics
Agriponics is a word derived from the combination of ‘agriculture’ and ‘ponics’ (the techniques developed to grow produce without the use of traditional soil). We focus on these agricultural ‘ponics’ practices because growing food with these techniques are the most adaptable, efficient, and some of the most progressive; the main advantage is that water, nutrients, and air are delivered directly to the plant root-zone.
What kinds of crops are best suited for an agriponic system?
Almost any crop that can be grown in traditional soil can be grown in a hydroponics system; traditionally most hydroponic farms have produced leafy herbs and vegetables. The nutrients, root zone humidity, overall water pH, air temperature, lighting schedule, etc. must be known and monitored during the entire plant’s growing cycle–a controlled agricultural environment makes all this even more possible.
What are common methods used in an agriponic system?
The most popular growing techniques when dealing with hydroponics and aquaponics are the Nutrient Film Technique (plants rest in plastic channels while water and nutrients flow continuously over the roots) and the Float Bed Technique (plants rest on holes on float boards and float in an nutrient rich mixture of water and air.)
How are agriponics economically beneficial?​
Hydroponics and aquaponics use approximately 90% less water than traditional agriculture. These water savings alone help the farmer retain income and reduce operating costs. These techniques immediately help to slow the depletion and potential exhaustion of Georgia’s water resources, potentially avoiding what the Western United States is currently experiencing with agricultural consumption.
Aquaponics and hydroponics agricultural techniques produce the most consistent crop production, size, and yields. Almost any nutrient excess or deficiency can be corrected and evenly delivered to the each plant saving the farmer potential crop loss.

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