San Jose, including all of California, was the victim of drought from 2012 to 2019, which was seven years of food insecurity, water conservation, and increased food and water prices. I was 10 when I learned of aquaponics. It was so fascinating to see the successful, symbiotic relationship between plants and fish, mimicking the natural way that ecosystems function. Aquaponics is an agricultural technique which uses the waste from fish as fertilizer for plants, as they filter the water for the fish to live in. It is a water conservative, efficient, and indoor method of producing organic seafood and vegetables. But, there are several disadvantages, including a massive consumption of electricity, which is very expensive. During extreme heat waves, power outages occurred frequently to prevent wildfires and this would greatly affect the productivity of the aquaponics system. Fish tanks' temperature, light, and water pumps need to be electricity 24 hours, seven days a week.
The aquaponics system works best and is far more productive with electricity. Many solutions have been attempted by removing electricity from the system, but these solutions required more hand powered pumps and more space. By redesigning the system to produce its own electricity, it will prove to be much more cost effective and easier to manage. My new aquaponics system will use the water that is already circulating to produce energy with a turbine already installed within. To jumpstart the turbines, some electricity from an outside source will be needed, but after, they will run on their own.
To test my idea, I created a hypothetical aquaponics system with that totally used approximately 20 liters of water. 10 liters of water remained in the top tank with the plants and 10 liters stayed in the bottom tank with the tilapia fish. From the top tank, 5 liters of water will be diverted into a turbine which will power the water pump, which needs 5 watts. The turbine would use 5 liters of water to produce 5 watts.
During the course of my experimentation, I designed one prototypes created to produce 5 watts of electricity with 5 liters of water. The design used the beer can as the main axle for the turbine and plastic spoons as the paddles for the wheel. In the prototype that I created the motor was connected to a wheel, hooked to the turbine. It takes up less space and is far more efficient. The wires from the turbine will power the pump and lights. The bigger the aquaponics system is, the more water will be needed to power it.
Why the Solution is Unique
By improving the aquaponics system to function on its own by producing its own electricity, makes it far more reliable. When outages occur due to heat waves, storms, or bad weather, the aquaponics system will continue running, monitoring the temperature of fish tanks, pumping water through the system, and keeping the lights running. Instead of relying on the sun's energy to power the device, I used moving water which what the majority of the system comprises of. But even with this modification, there are some disadvantages. Further installment of the turbine is required to have a fail-safe and secure aquaponics, including a little more space. The turbine will not increase much in size, as the amount of power needed increases, but it will indeed need more space. If multiple aquaponics systems are installed, then the one turbine can power all of them with some modifications. Aquaponics is an agricultural method of using the symbiotic relationship between plants and fish to produce food, conserve water, and promote indoor farming. With my modifications, this system becomes completely self-sustaining, conserving electricity, and the ultimate way to prepare for droughts.