Conventional Agriculture vs. Aquaponics for Sustainable Food Systems

I’m sharing a couple of diagrams I’m working on for a paper I’m working on.  In the paper I’m advocating for increased research into aquaponics as a possible significant contributor to future sustainable food systems.  I’d greatly appreciate any thoughts on the idea in general, and more specifically, on the drawings below.

What do you think?  Are they a fair conceptual representation?  Am I leaving anything out?  Don’t hesitate to jump in with your thoughts.

Thank you,


Soil-Based Agriculture System Diagram

Aquaponics System Diagram


Could Big Ag Boil Niagara Falls?

I’m running some numbers for a paper that I’m working on and I’m trying to come up with a way to make the 11 exajoules that are consumed annually in U.S. crop and livestock production a bit more tangible.  Let me know if this grabs you.

11 exajoules is equal to 10,432,965,210,899,000 British Thermal Units (BTUs)

A BTU is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

The 10,432,965,210,899,000 BTUs consumed annually is equal to 330,600,711,76 BTUs/Second.


6,320,000 Pounds of water flow over Niagara Falls every second.

330,600,711,76 BTUs/Second divided by 6,320,000 Pounds/Second = 52.31 degrees Fahrenheit.


So, it appears that the energy used in direct production of crops and livestock would not be enough to heat the water going over Niagara Falls to the boiling point of roughly 212 F, but it sure would take it a long way towards the goal, and this leaves out all of the energy used in trasport, processing, packaging, retailing/wholesaling and end use.  So, in total we might just get there!


Does this help make the 11 exajoules of energy seem a bit more tangible?  Any thoughts on that comparison, or other ways that might make it more concrete, would be greatly appreciated.


Can Aquaponics Fix Our Food Systems?

I’m working on my final project for my Master’s program.  All of my research has been on the failings and opportunities of global food systems.  This last effort is attempting to look at the opportunities of shifting a significant portion of soil-based agriculture to aquaponic systems which would be situated in urban settings.  (Aquaponics is the marriage of aquaculture, also known as fish farming, with hydroponics.)  Aquaponic systems bring numerous benefits by cycling nutrients in closed loop system that mimics a natural ecosystem.  Please take a look at the mind map below and share your thoughts in the comments.  Let me have it if you think I’ve made a leap too far, or I’ve left off an important idea.  I’d be happy to answer any questions you have as well as the goal is to put together a paper that has legs.  (What’s the point otherwise?)

Please do share a thought or a question, I’d greatly appreciate it! 🙂


Can Aquaponics Fix Our Food Systems?

Click on the image for a larger version.

Humanity at the 4th Agricultural Crossroads: A Choice of Cleverness or Wisdom

Harvard University Extension School

Humanity at the 4th Agricultural Crossroads:

A Choice of Cleverness or Wisdom

ENVR-120 Environmental Ethics & Land Management

Department of Environmental Management


Chris Oestereich


St. Louis, MO

December, 2011

Continue reading