Aquaponics, currently receiving funding on Kickstarter, looks to combine a fish tank and a sustainable garden all-in-one.
Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez left their jobs in favor of starting a project to help people grow their own food. After successfully launching their mushroom kit for a scant $5,000, Arora and Velez hope to continue to get more people to grow their own herbs and spices—this time with a fully sustainable fish tank. Arora and Velez posted their project on Kickstarter with the goal to raise $100,000 to fund manufacturing.
Five "net pods" float above the tank in a small pool of water. Fish create waste that the tank then siphons up into the planters to provide fertilizer. A classic form of "upcycling," this means you don't have to clean the fish tank.
Aside from being a great example of recycling materials, the design of the Aquaponics kit is remarkable. If funded, the plan is to make the final product out of a combination of plastic, acrylic, and glass. Arora and Velez worked with a designer to come up with the form, function, and shape of the tank, ultimately finishing with a compact design.
"We went into this with no preconceptions of shape, size, or materials," Nikhil says. "We had just fallen in love with this concept of aquaponics at the largest scale—visiting big commercial farms—and had this passion for making that amazing technology and science accessible to more people."
The final product is small enough to sit on a kitchen counter without being an obstacle. At three gallons, the tank is ideal for one three-inch-long fish or a few smaller one-inch fish. The founders recommend goldfish, betas, and other easy to care for species.
Ease of use is a driving force behind the design: not only do you not have to clean the tank, the only needed fertilizer comes directly from the fish's waste and the only water is pumped from the tank—everything about it is self-regulated. The tank comes in at roughly 10" wide, by 11" high, by 6" deep—smaller than your average toaster oven.
Designing the tank brought about a few extra challenges, Arora says. "We explored various shapes—eventually landing on a pot shape icon to represent the innovation here. The geometry is more cubic than cylindrical, the most efficient use of space." The net pods on top can handle just about any small, leafy herb or spice—even flowers. Placed near a window with direct sunlight year-round, the plants can take care of themselves without the tank becoming too hot since the pods on top shelter it.
Another perk is the connection it can have with children. It can teach them the importance of fresh food as well as taking care of the fish—feeding the fish is just about the only real responsibility here. "Our goal was to center around the idea of beauty through simplicity and ease of use. To make a system so intuitive even kids could understand it right away," Arora says.
Aquaponics is up for funding on Kickstarter until December 15. If successfully funded, the tanks will reach consumers in February 2013. If you'd like to donate and be one of the first people to receive a tank, click here.