Jack Waite thinks aquaponics is the solution to the type of extreme drought that Texas farmers faced this past summer.
Waite is putting his money where his mouth is, building an aquaponics center in southeast Austin. Aquaponics systems circulate water in a closed loop between fish-growing and plant-growing tanks (see our profiles of urban rooftop aquaponics system pioneer Sky Vegetables for an in-depth look).
The farming technique of aquaponics started in agricultural university labs and is now being adopted by growers in urban areas. Waite plans to name his aquaponics farm Agua Dulce, Spanish for “Sweet Water.” A friend of Waite’s has an aquaponics farm in Wisconsin called “Sweet Water Organics.”
“They have a short growing season up there. We have a long one, but we also have a really bad summer,” says Waite. “So, I thought, what a perfect way to deal with the water shortages that we have here and the abundant light we have around.”
Waite believes aquaponics are the future of Texas farming. The technique uses about 85 percent less water than traditionally irrigated land crops, but it requires a lot of water to get started. Waite plans to raise fish that need cool water, like yellow perch and tilapia, so energy use in the summer will be high.
So it's a solution with some drawbacks, but the water savings could be a tremendous benefit in making locally grown crops abundant.