The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory

Aquaponics and Sustainable Aquaculture

The Future of Sustainable Food Production

What is it? 

Sustainable aquaculture is the cultivation of fish species for commercial purposes that have a neutral or positive impact on the environment while generating economic revenue[i].

Aquaponics takes the practices of sustainable aquaculture and integrates it with the practices of hydroponics, which grows plants in water without soil using key nutrients and minerals[ii].

Why aquaculture?

Overfishing and depletion of global fish stocks….

  • In 2004 over 75% of commercial fish stocks were overused, collapsed, or recovering[iii].
  • Major fish stocks are on pace to collapse by 2048, what’s more, we only eat about 10% of the total marine life that is killed for consumption—about 90% is by-catch and is not used[iv].
  • Only 3% of global fish stocks are undeveloped and have the potential for new development and expansion [v]

Practicing Sustainability

Around the globe, as well as domestically here in the United States…

  • The Chinese can produce 100 pounds of fish each year on only 1 acre of land[i]
  • It only takes 8kilograms of silkworm waste and 2 kilograms of pupae to produce 2 kilograms of fish [ii]
  • Fish can be a sustainable option for food production: All the catfish farming in the United States is produced on only 174,000 acres of land
  • Farmed shellfish do not need added fertilizers, insecticides, or antibiotics
  • Sustainable fish farming adheres to the strict regulations of the EPA’s waste emissions regulations

The Future of Aquaculture and Aquaponics Globally and in the United States

            Aquaculture is the fastest growing food supply in the world

  • As of 2009, only 5% of the seafood consumed in the United States was sourced domestically, so there is a large market open to growth[i]
  • Over 80% of the United States fish stocks are sustainably grown and maintained.

NUTR 245

Annotated Bibliography

“Aquaculture Development.” Introduction. FAO Technical Guidelines for

Responsible Fisheries. 1997. 1. No.5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Fishery and Aquaculture. Web.

This piece of literature is a scientific guideline book produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations specifically geared towards addressing the responsible development of fisheries and aquaculture first published in Rome in 1997.  It was prepared by the Fisheries department of the FAO, with contributions from many in the scientific community of the FAO.  The introduction to this guideline book gives an overview of what aquaculture is and outlines the role of aquaculture as it relates to sustainable development, food security , and culture based fisheries.  My professor at Duke University suggested that I look into sources from the FAO for information on aquaculture and aquapoinics.

“Aquaculture Development.” Responsible Development at Production Leel. FAO

Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. 1997. 1. No.5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Fishery and Aquaculture. Web. <;.

This report is sourced from the FAO and it is a document regarding the responsible delvelopment of fisheries as well as how to maintain this responsibility in practice at production level.  It also provides statistics regarding the current level of fish stocks and the projected future.

Diver, Steve, and Lee Rinehart. “Aquaponics–Integration of Hydroponics with

Aquaculture.” National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. ATTRA, 2006. Web. <;.

This publication was developed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, updated in 2010 to give a comprehensive overview on the subject of aquaponics and the role they can play in increasing sustainable development and diversifying  growing food systems.  This publication was specifically prepared by Steve Driver who is an Agriculture Specialist with NCAT, and then later updated by NCAT Agriculture Specialist Lee Rinehart.  The article explains that aquaponics is a way of integrating multiple biological systems into a closed loop of mutual beneficence.  It speaks to its sustainability and the process to integrating one of these systems.   A friend of mine previously did research with the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service and gave me the link to this information.

Hardy, Ronald W., Lindsay Ross, Shi-Yen Shiau, and Marc Verdegem.

“Aquaculture Research.” Wiley Journal (2010). Wiley Online Library. Web.

This online journal provides a wealth of information regarding the status of aquaculture.  It gives a foundation for understanding what aquaculture is as well as how it plays a role in our society and global food production.  I was allowed access to this journal through a class at food class Duke University and have been using this journal as a source for understanding the basics of sustainable aquaculture.

McWilliams, James E. “The Blue Revolution.” Just Food: Where Locavores Get It

Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009.156. Print.

James E. McWilliams wrote Just Food as a critique of the local food movement and he attempts to look outside of traditional sources for sustainable development in which he explores the future of sustainable aquaculture in his chapter “The Blue Revolution”.  He gives many anecdotal statistics regarding the current status of global fish stocks as well as stories of people, countries, and companies who have embarked upon sustainably developing systems of aquaculture and aquaponics. This was an assigned book for a course I am enrolled in currently, The Politics of Food, at Duke University. The chapter on aquaculture was what initially sparked my interest on aquaculture’s role in a sustainable global and local food market.  The book is found at most book stores as well as online and in libraries.

Min, Kuanhong, and Baotong Hu. “Mulberry-plot Fishpond.” Integrated

Agriculture-aquaculture: A Primer. Rome: FAO, 2001. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. Web. <;.

This is a techinal paper written by Kuanhong Min and Baotong Hu about aquaculture development in China.  The primer is sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  The paper explores case studies of aquaculture in China and the various methods that have been integrated into their domestic systems.  After being published on its own, this paper eventually found its way into the hands of the FAO.  I originally found this source from a citation in McWilliams book Just Food and followed up on the source online.

National Fisheries Institute. “Sustainable Aquaculture Critical To Feed The

World.” Science 2.0. Science Blogging, 16 Feb. 2007. Web. <;.

This article from a scientific journal is a critique on the possibility of sustainable aquaculture solving some of the global food crisis issues.  It looks at how aquaculture can benefit the world through health impacts and responsible environmental stewardship.  It pulls on the research of scientists from the Open Ocean Aquaculture Program , the Ocean Institute of Hawaii and the USDA.  This article was sponsored by the National Fisheries Institute.  This source appeared on the page of a USDA statement about aquaculture and I followed the source to the National Fisheries Institute.

“State-of-Knowledge Presentation for the Special Committee on Sustainable

Aquaculture of the British Columbia Legislature.” Fisheries and Oceans Canada,30Nov. 2006. Web. <;.

This is a scientific research report regarding the potential dangers of aquaculture.  I utilized this reference to gain a better understanding of the precautions necessary to implementing sustainable aquaculture on a large scale.  This report allows one to understand the risks and risk management steps that can and should be taken with fisheries.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “General Situation of

World Fish Stocks.” United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 2002. Web. <;.

This scientific report from the Food and Agriculture Organization provides statistical evidence on the status of global fish stocks.  It breaks down the percentages of fish stocks that are at various stages of exploitation and provides a map of the FAO’s marine monitoring.  This resource became available to me through a search for scientific evidence regarding the status of global fish stocks.

United States. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Draft

Aquaculture Policy. By National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2001. Web. <;.

This report is a draft of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s policy on aquaculture. It provides a statistically and scientific in depth look at the current status of domestic aquaculture in the United States.  The report suggests that there is ample and necessary room for aquaculture to expand within the Untied States. This source was provided by the National Fisheries Institute as further evidence for exploration.


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