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Permaculture, Aquaponics, and Greenhouses: The Benefits and Difference Between Them

Permaculture

As a branch of environmental design, ecological design and ecological engineering, permaculture is a concept that develops architecture that is self-sustaining as well as horticulture that is self-maintained. All this is developed and modeled from a natural ecosystem. At the core of permaculture are three basic principles; care for the earth, care for the people and sharing of surplus. The earth is the source of livelihood for all human beings as well as animals and therefore taking care of it ensures that life continues and that living things can multiply efficiently. People depend on the earth and the resources it produces and so mechanisms must be put in place to facilitate access to these resources. Just the same way natural systems make use of their outputs to cater for each other, man can also cater for his needs and keep some of the available resources to take care of the earth and those around him.

Two phrases summarize permaculture almost immaculately. First is the phrase that says a place for everything and everything in its place and secondly is the saying the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In permaculture, the strategic placement of every natural element to maximize its output is vital. For this to happen effectively, all elements have to synergize or otherwise be interconnected to come up with a grand design. Every element plays an important part true but the connectivity between the various elements is much more important. Permaculture designs have therefore become increasingly useful in areas where populations are limited yet demand for sustenance is high. It minimizes on the human resources required and reduces wastage of resources. In order to understand just how much space one must use to feed certain specific numbers of people, permaculture uses the theory of zones and sectors. Available space is divided into zones from one to perhaps five with zone five being the least used or accessed. 1000 square meters in zone one for instance put under permaculture can feed a family of four quite comfortably.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a term that refers to a system put in place for the sustainable production of food. An aquaponic system usually integrates aquaculture and hydroponics to create symbiosis between aquatic animals and water plants. The water in aquaculture usually gets too contaminated for the water animals (snails, fish etc.) and it is then led out to the plants growing in the water. The plants can then use nitrogen fixing bacteria to turn the byproducts into useful nutrients. What remains is clean water, which is then recycled back to the aquatic animals and so on and so forth. Aquaculture and hydroponics are the basis of aquaponics but additional systems often come into play. Such instances include when there is need to reduce acidity, to increase oxygen levels and to remove wastes from the water. For these functions rearing tanks are necessary along with bio filters, units for waste removal, a hydroponics system and a sump. Aquaponics can come in very handy in arid areas or in places where land is limited or unproductive for agriculture. It certainly is possible to feed your family purely on aquaponic produce. All you need is good fish food, a dependable electricity source and of course, some water plants. This can feed up to about four people. The bigger the space you have the larger the populations you can feed using produce from your aquaponic system.

Greenhouses

A greenhouse is a structure made primarily of glass and plastic used for growing plants. They range in sizes right from industrial sizes for large-scale food production to miniature small-scale structures referred to as a cold frames. Heat from the rays of the sun get into the greenhouse through the transparent glass and is absorbed by the plants and soil in the structure. The heat trapped in the greenhouse stays in because the glass or plastic prevents it from rising beyond and going away. Equipment in greenhouses include sources of light, screening installation, heat source and cool air source. In modern greenhouses, the lighting, heating and cooling functions are sometimes controlled by computerized systems. Different greenhouses sizes feed different population sizes. One factor that strangely comes into play however is the shape of the greenhouse. A dome shaped greenhouse for instance has been noted to have various advantages most notably maximizing on space. On average, research shows that every American adult eats a maximum of 200 pounds of vegetables per year. With a 350 square foot dome shaped greenhouse, therefore you can produce approximately 800 pounds of vegetables per year giving you the ability to feed four adults for the entire year. These numbers can be used to calculate how much more input and space is required for larger or smaller populations.

As the world gets more and more commercialized and modernized, one challenge that human beings will inevitably face is that of space. Space for agriculture as we know it is fast running out and it is such innovative and novel ideas that will keep the populations going in future. Apart from being very efficient in terms of space utilization, these methods should be the way to go because they produce natural, non-GMO foods that are safe not just for human consumption but for animal and plant use as well. These methods also minimize the use of pesticides, which are responsible for a huge fraction of the world’s pollution. Nothing beats producing food that is healthy and safe to eat while keeping air and water pollution at a minimum.

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