What is Bioponics?

Bioponics’ is a new technique of soilless farming pioneered at Bioponica. It is similar yet distinct from hydroponics and aquaponics. This is Bioponica’s definition of bioponics:

  1. Bioponics is soilless, utilizing one or more of the following techniques; FD -flood and drain or EF ebb and flow with media beds, NFT-nutrient film technique in trickling troughs, DWC-deep water culture on floating rafts and the ALT air layer technique on stationary rafts with EF ebbing and flowing water levels.
  2. Bioponics is 100% organic. No manufactured petro-chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides.
  3. With bioponics, fish are optional. Herbivore fish such as tilapia and crawfish do particularly well in bioponic systems, as they are treated more like pond fish, deriving nutrients from biomass teas and aquatic organisms including algae, microbes and duckweed. Raising fish is encouraged but dependency on fish waste is an aquaponics approach, not bioponics.

Nutrient Quality

The quality of fertilizer teas derived from plant derived biomass is superior to manufactured fertilizers.

Plant derived biomass teas provide an ideal balance of trace elements, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, enzymes and plant hormones. Furthermore, there is no buildup of EC electrical conductivity in bioponicsbecause biomass does not typically contain chlorides greater than what the plant requires. For that reason, there is no discharge of water required to maintain balance in bioponics. These features of NPK control, organic fertility and no toxic residue illustrate the viabilityof bioponics as a more sustainable alternative to both aquaponics and hydroponics.

Using the Bioponica process of Nutricycling™ allows for tight control of NPK and PPM’s with bioponics.

More on the definition of bioponics:

100% Organic

By definition “bio” ponics is ‘biological.’ The benefit of this technique is that by growing entirely with organic nutrients, beneficial microbes colonize on and around the plant roots. This aids in biofiltration and improves fertilizing nutrient uptake. Bioponics does not allow for the use of chemical fertilizers. Because of that it is distinct from hydroponics, a soilless technique that primarily uses inorganic fertilizers.

Some growers attempt to grow hydroponically with organic fertilizers but unless there are measures taken to oxidize (heavily aerate) and/or biofilter organic carbon, the ‘sterile’ hydroponic environment will go anaerobic and plants suffer. The Biogarden is a Bioponica growing system that accommodates optimal organic growing conditions for plants, with or without fish. And, it simultaneously acts to create liquid fertilizer from biomass teas. We use the natural forces of the vortex to oxygenate the enriched water and a blended grow media microbes s for biofiltration.

As with the best soil care, bioponics is about nourishing the diverse array of living organisms that support the plant roots. The more common, and important microbes in the organic garden include nitrifiyers and decarboxylators along with rhizobacteria, microrhizomes, protozoans, nematodes and earthworms. These are the heart of the food web, cycling nutrients from plant derived organics and releasing into plant-ready ‘inorganics’.

Plant derived organic fertilizer teas for bioponics also provides a health dose of trace minerals, vitamins, hormones and growth factors to the plant roots.

Soilless, no dirt.

Bioponics is similar to both hydroponics and aquaponics in that it is soilless. As demonstrated with aquaponics, it is possible to grow plants organically without soil. And yet, bioponics is able to provide more nutrients than aquaponics because there are more options for nutrient inputs than simply fish feed and the fish waste bioproducts. There is also more tolerance in a bioponic system for concentrating nutrients, such as ammonia and BODs (biological oxygen demand – carbon), without harming the fish which require a minimum of oxygen.

The various soilless environments known for raising plants in hydroponics and aquaponics are also possible with bioponics. This includes DWC deep water culture, flood and drain or ebb and flow media beds and NFT nutrient film technique.

Fish Optional

Fish are well suited to bioponics. In fact they are encouraged. Easy enough to raise, sustainably, because herbivores can be raised on the same grass extracts, as long as carbon has not been overly removed. Best thing about raising fish with bioponics is that you can be sure they are organic fish. That’s hard to find, for any fish in the supermarket! In addition to the leachings and detritus of decomposing grasses and food discards, herbivore and omnivore fish can also be fed duckweed and earthworms, which are among the polyculture of a bioponic growing operation.

But they are not required. This is a key distinction. Raising fish in order to feed plants organically is not a practical arrangement. Fish like and alkaline environment, plants prefer more acidic. Often fish are overcrowded for the purpose of providing nutrients for the plants and their disease or fluctuations in population with harvesting can cause headaches when trying to maintain nutrient balance. Finally, fish and fish feed do not offer a comparable NPK and trace elements value for plant fertilization that can be derived when using Bioponica’s method of processed fertilizer teas from plant matter.

By comparison; The other soilless systems:

Hydroponics is popular as it conserves water use through soilless recirculating growing techniques. And, plant growth is optimized by managing NPK and PPM of chemical fertilizers. These are the primary hydroponic benefits, yet to manage EC-electrical conductivity, chloride contaminants from manufactured mineral elements must be plunged from the system and disposed of into the environment. There is no EC buildup or water discharged in bioponics.

Aquaponics is also soilless. It performs well for green leafy plants, and does so by using fish feed and fish urine as a source of nutrient inputs. It does not, however, do so well for fruiting or heavy feeding vegetables and herbs. That’s due to the challenge in simultaneously optimizing the conditions for plants and fish which have different environmental needs. Fish like alkaline water, plants need more acidic. More potassium and phosphorus is needed than that which is produced from the fish urine in the alkaline pH environment. And it’s difficult to regulate concentration of fish urine nutrients to ideally satisfy plant needs through different stages of growth.

A word about EC electrical conductivity.

Electrical conductivity is a major concern with hydroponics growing. This is mostly do to the use of chemical fertilizers that contain chloride salts. The chloride element contributes a persistent negative ionic charge which raises the electrical conductivity of the hydroponic solution. Chloride ‘creeps up’ in the solution because it is not appreciably taken up by the plants. Excessive chloride buildup or an increased EC impedes plant uptake of the critical fertilizer nutrients. In fact the plant literally dehydrates when EC electrical conductivity rises so high that the chloride osmotic forces draw water from the plant roots and wilt the plant.

Mined or manufactured potassium, calcium and magnesium contain chlorides which increase EC electrical. Chlorides are the primary reason HCL, hydrochloric acid,  is not recommended for lowering pH in hydroponic systems.

The treatment used to reduce chloride buildup in hydroponic systems is reverse osmosis, which gets expensive in larger systems, or periodic water discharge, which is inefficient and bad for the environment.

With bioponics unless source water has high chlorides there is no buildup of EC electrical conductivity.  That’s because plant derived potassium, calcium and magnesium are mobilized from organics extracts and contains relatively few chlorides, only what the plant needs. For that reason, there never is a buildup of EC electrical conductivity with bioponics. This means fertilization water is never discharged and the process of managing fertilization is much easier…more natural.

The Nutricycler and nutrient blends for making organic fertilizer

Using the Bioponica process of Nutricycling™ allows for tight control of NPK and PPM’s with bioponics. The quality of fertilizer teas derived from plant derived biomass is superior to manufactured fertilizers. They provide an ideal balance of trace elements, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, enzymes and plant hormones. Furthermore, there is no buildup of EC electrical conductivity in bioponicsbecause biomass does not typically contain chlorides greater than what the plant requires. For that reason, there is no discharge of water required to maintain balance in bioponics. These features of NPK control, organic fertility and no toxic residue illustrate the viabilityof bioponics as a more sustainable alternative to both aquaponics and hydroponics.

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Growing indoors with bioponics

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Backyard and research growing modules for bioponics

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Commercial-sized bioponic growing systems

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