Imagine a process, wherein the behaviour of living individuals along with group behaviour correlates with a computer based program to equal extent. Where could an artificial learning process better be applied than in a steady running model of an entire Eco-process?
One system that contains such features is called aquaponics and could contribute to solving world hunger because it can be run even where water becomes a sacred good.
Aquaponics will become the most important method of soil less farming. It combines the benefits of hydro culture with those of aquaculture, eliminating the main disadvantages of both of them. In the long run, aquaponics could be a sustainable base for urban agriculture and vertical farming.
Soil less farming, also called hydroponics, is a common yet costly method to grow vegetables and herbs. The plants extract nutrients directly from water. This method is not sustainable because the nutrients for the plants are generally mined from fossil resources. Conventional aquaculture, or more precisely, freshwater fish farming is based on a water-intense rinse system. There is as yet no economically viable technical solution to filter the water to install a recirculating stable system.
The combination of the two systems is very simple but reasonable. The fish leave behind ammonia, which is converted to nitrite by nitrosomonas. In a second step, nitrite is converted to nitrate by another bacteria culture called nitrobacter. Nitrate is not harmful to fish and can easily be absorbed by the roots of plants. It is therefore important to always have enough plants to filter the water and sufficient ammonia to keep the bacteria alive.
Once the system is correctly set up, it can be kept running stable with the constant input of fish food and the constant output of groceries and freshwater fish. This method seems very promising because it can be run almost anywhere with fairly low initial costs. Even though the process is very stable while it is running, it is a vulnerable imitation of a complex Eco-system. Steady maintenance is the most important ingredient for a stable procedure.
This is where artificial intelligence could be taken into account. There are many parameters that indicate the status of the cycle. Firstly, and of immediate vital importance, the level of oxygen and the water flow always need to be kept steady. Being of technical origin, these parameters are fairly easy to control. It is best to have a backup system installed, because if one of the two fails collapse will occur within hours. The water temperature is also important. Furthermore, there are many chemical processes that need to be screened. The pH Level and the concentration of ammonia and nitrite are good indicators to analyze the status of the system.
Apart from these parameters, the movement of individuals, population development, feeding rhythm and of course crop output could be kept recorded. The filtration ability of different plants is also an interesting character that yet needs to be determined. A good algorithm, ideally combined with a broad base of data sources could deliver important information for further projects.
Of course aquaponics does not only carry benefits. If the method is applied using the wrong materials, softeners or adhesives could be contained in the product. A great danger is to lose crops due to technical errors. It is also necessary to mention that aquaponics might not be competitive to conventional food production methods, but in my belief this will occur sooner than expected if the method is steadily improved. The urge to introduce the method to the food market imposes the need to find a policy to deal with a new form of factory farming. It is of great importance to declare the produced vegetables from aquaponics, because they can not be considered as vegan products.
Despite all uncertainties and initial problems that need to be solved aquaponics will certainly become the driving force in the upcoming market of urban and vertical farming.
Student at Technikum Wien University