aquaponic lettuce seedlings

Cracking the Aquaponics Code: Outperforming Hydroponics by 39%

Aquaponics is a trending topic, but this finding on plant growth performance could be path-breaking for further aquaponics development. The Developonics team has published a new paper in the peer review journal Water (MDPI) with the title Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. Sucrine) Growth Performance in Complemented Aquaponic Solution Outperforms Hydroponics. The results were beyond our imagination.

In a Nutshell: what did we do?

We (Simon and Boris) compared the lettuce growth performance in NFT Aeroflo systems (Figure 1) in different nutrient solutions: hydroponic, aquaponic, and complemented aquaponics solutions. The aquaponics solution was RAS based and lower in nutrient concentrations than the hydroponic solution and the complemented aquaponics solution. The only difference in the hydroponic and the complemented aquaponic solution was that the latter was based on RAS water.

aquaponics outperforms hydroponics

Figure 1. The experiment at a university greenhouse in Gembloux (Université de Liège), Belgium, at an early growth stage.

What were our findings?

The principal finding of this research was that aquaponic and hydroponic treatments exhibited similar plant growth, whereas the shoot weight of the complemented aquaponics treatment showed a growth rate increase of 39% on average compared to the other treatments. So, the results highlight the beneficial effect of recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) water on plant growth. The findings represent a further step toward developing decoupled aquaponic systems (i.e. two- or multi-loop systems as described in our publication on DAPS) that have the potential to establish a more productive alternative to hydroponic systems. Microorganisms and dissolved organic matter are suspected to play an important role in RAS water for promoting plant roots and shoots growth. These results still need to be tested on larger scale and under perfect plant-specific growth conditions (i.e. optimal light and CO2 conditions, etc.), but they scientifically highlight the potential to achieve better plant yield of aquaponic farming practices than in conventional hydroponic.

The complemented aquaponic nutrient solution showed a better growth performance than the hydroponic control group.

Figure 2. The complemented aquaponic nutrient solution showed a better growth performance than the hydroponic control group.

Further Readings

If you want to look at further details of this study, simply download the paper (PDF) or read it online. We try to publish in Open Access journals as much as possible to make our obtained knowledge accessible for everyone. For further, more regular updates, you can also like us on Facebook.

Stay tuned! 🙂

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  1. […] Increased plant growth of up to 40% compared to state-of-the-art hydroponic systems; […]

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