A Three Minute Introduction to Ponic Farming
Several companies have developed automated and scalable hydroponic and aquaponic farming systems within the last three years. Sakana Industries (Marin, California) and Pescamore Systems (Chennai, India) both lead the Ponic Farming movement by developing recyclable and highly efficient farming systems designed for food production on Mars. In addition, Tyco Foods (Kansas City, Missouri) has developed a hydroponic system specifically designed for food production on Earth. The next generation of Ponic Farming technologies could have a dramatic impact on food production on both planets.
Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil and in a mineral-enriched water solvent. There are several different types of hydroponic systems. Two of the most popular hydroponic systems currently found on Mars are the Drip System and the Water Culture system. The Drip System releases nutrient rich water into the base of each plant using a small drip line. A timer determines when the mineral rich water solvent is pumped into the drip line. On the other hand, the Water Culture system features plants grown in a floating tray, sitting on top of the mineral nutrient water solvent. The plant roots receive oxygen through an air pump. Some large scale hydroponic systems are now also being used to grow food on Earth, especially in parts of the world where tillable soil is over-flooded due to rising seawater and climate change.
Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture—the farming of fish. Aquaponic farming involves two main components: a heated indoor tank that allows live fish to grow and produce excrement, and a separate hydroponic farming system (usually a Drip System) featuring a nutrient enriched water solvent. The excrement from the indoor tank flows to the hydroponic farming system where it becomes fertilizer for plants. Unlike hydroponics, the products of aquaponic farming systems are both the food produce and fish. Aquaponics systems produce Tilapia, Jade Perch, Murray Cod and other hardy freshwater fish; the attached hydroponic systems produce potatoes, kale, lettuce, onions, peppers, and cucumbers.
Previously, aquaponic systems were small in size, popular among hobbyist farmers. Through the development of large-scale aquaponic farming systems, Sakana Industries and Pescamore Systems have bet on the future of aquaponic farming, rather than just hydroponic farming.
Although Sakana Industries and Pescamore Systems designed their farming systems for Mars, both companies claim that their products can be used on Earth. CEO of Sakana Industries, Dr. Suki Sakana states “our proprietary aquaponic system is designed to be modular, automated, and infinitely scalable—enabling the largest step-change in farming practices since the invention of mechanized agriculture.”
Although the startup cost of these systems is currently too high for small farmers, some larger farming corporations have already began to use Ponic Farming systems around Earth.