When attempting to grow cannabis with the use of an aquaponic system, searching the topic online is step one. There you’ll find countless threads populated by eager-to-try novices, optimistic about the potential a closed-loop system holds. Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics, but uses fish waste to provide an organic fertilizer for plants, while the plant’s root system works to filter the water for the fish. For a natural, nutrient rich method to produce high quality yield, it seems ideal.
AQUAPONICS IN PRACTICE
One important consideration to note is that almost all success using aquaponics has been focused on cultivating small scale vegetables, fruits and herbs. If growing your own food is what you’re after, aquaponics is a straightforward way to produce your garden indoors or out, while having access to fish protein year around.
While aquaponics offers plants a highly nutritious and diverse microbe infused environment, the output still lacks the full nourishment necessary for a commercially successful cannabis crop. In hydroponics, nutrients can be added directly into the water supply in specific quantities when needed. While aquaponics does produce about 70% of a plant’s nutrient needs, about 30% will still need to be added in to see optimum results. Things get tricky when we strive to balance plant’s health with that of aquatic life. Fish require the close management of pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates, and with a typical aquaponic system, any use of fertilizer would mark the end of resident fish.
The typical aquaponic system utilizes a single media layer to hold the roots, such as expanded clay pebbles commonly known as Hydroton. This layer is then flushed with a flood and drain system, regularly bringing fresh water to the roots in intervals throughout the day. Plant life requires the addition of phosphate and potassium, and because of this, many aquaponic models fail to keep aquatic life flourishing.
APPLICATIONS IN CANNABIS
Thankfully, Steve Raisner has changed the game. A pioneer in innovative aquaponic systems, Raisner tirelessly explores methodology that not only supports cannabis growth, but allows it to thrive. As owner of Potent Ponics, he has spent the last four years immersed in aquaponic research and development, with a concentration on producing high grade cannabis. While other companies have dabbled, few have found the results required to produce a reliable product.
In his research, Raisner found the best technique for cannabis growth in the Dual Root Zone method. In this system, the grower uses Hydroton or a similar media at the base and then adds a burlap layer or another root penetrable material directly on top. This is then covered with about 12 inches of soil. After determining the amount of water the soil can hold, it is possible for amendments to be added directly to the soil, without soaking through and diffusing into the water source.
The benefits to this system are numerous. From disease resistance to a decrease in costs previously allocated to fertilizers and water, the Dual Root Zone also doubles the biodiversity and microbes found in a grow operation. The results are a product that is not only more environmentally sound, but with a taste you will find undeniably richer, earthier and smooth. The ability to raise your own trout, tilapia or blue gill to throw onto the grill at the end of the day is a pretty nice perk, too.
While information on using aquaponics as a successful growing method for cannabis is limited, Raisner says he is working to make his research more accessible to the public in the coming months. In the meantime, check out his work at potentponics.com or check out his weekly podcasts on YouTube.
IMPACTS ON THE FUTURE
Global citizens of today face challenges that will define the generations who follow. Our water supply in a state of crisis. There are severe soil deficiencies due to the use of monocultures in agriculture. Food injustice runs rampant even in the wealthiest countries where processed foods are subsidized rather than fresh produce.
Communities must find alternative ways to provide for each other and heal the land if we are going to overcome these obstacles. Particularly for cannabis growers, aquaponics offers a wealth of potential.