Design and Evaluation of a Recirculating Aquaponic System

Whittering, Matthew (2020) Design and Evaluation of a Recirculating Aquaponic System. [USQ Project]

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The environmental and social impacts of food production globally are key issues surrounding ability to feed the population growth anticipated. Water security, clearing, sustainability and nutrient runoff are all highly publicised and relevant concerns surrounding current agricultural farming practices. In Australia alone, 62% of Australia’s total water usage (Statistics 2016- 17b) was used for irrigating agricultural crops, 23 million hectares of land was cultivated for crop and pasture management (Statistics 2016-17a), and 963,000 tonnes (Statistics 2016- 17a) of ammonia phosphate fertilisers were applied in the 2016-2017 financial year.

Recirculating Aquaponic Systems (RAS) are closed system and compact food producing systems that produce fish and crops. Boasting exceptional water use efficiencies of up to 97%, no nutrient discharge from the system, and achieving up to 7 times the yield per square meter than traditional farming techniques, these systems are promoted as the future of farming. They incorporate aquaculture together with agricultural crop growing in a single system to overcome problems identified in each standalone operation. For aquaculture problems exist in the generation of excessive levels of nutrients resulting from densely farming fish, whist the opposite exists in agricultural cropping operations in that constant nutrient supplementation is required. By incorporating the two operations in an aquaponic system, the fish produce the nutrients required by the plants, and the plant remove the nutrients generated by the aquacultural fish operation.

The aims of this dissertation included the development of a design model for the calculation and evaluation of all of the system variables associated with both the fish rearing and plant growing operations in the system, to ensure a balance exists between nutrients generated to nutrients expired. The performance of a recirculating aquaponic system was evaluated based on this balance.

The developed design model was trialled in several real-world scenarios to determine its suitability and range of application in industry. The first trial included the greenfield design of a system using customer required supply from the system, with the second trial including a change from the original supply from the system due to seasonal or market shifts.

It was found that the recirculating design model created was able to rapidly provide a design solution based on the system supply demands, with significant excess plant crops being required to treat the nutrients generated from the required fish supply. This represents an opportunity to supply an additional market from the same system. In the second scenario, the removal from the fish from the system supply requirements, the model rapidly evaluated the system changes to produce a much smaller system design that still maintained the required system balance of nutrient generation to nutrient removal. The successful use of the design model to evaluate each scenario demonstrates its effectiveness for use in the design and evaluation of recirculating aquaponic systems

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Item Type: USQ Project
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Civil Engineering and Surveying (1 Jul 2013 - 31 Dec 2021)
Supervisors: Baillie, Justine
Qualification: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Civil)
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2021 01:51
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2023 04:56
Uncontrolled Keywords: farming, food production, agricultural crop growing, aquaculture, recirculating aquaponic systems (RAS), nutrient generation, nutrient removal, fish rearing, plant growing

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