By JAMES TABABA
Aquaponics, a method of sustainable farming, has gained significant popularity in recent years. The ability to cultivate both fish and plants in a symbiotic environment has captured the attention of Edmund Ruhle and Elisa Canon, the couple behind Aquaponics Go Green. From humble beginnings to becoming pioneers in the aquaponics industry, they have transformed their passion into a successful venture.
Edmund, coming from a construction background rather than farming, initially viewed aquaponics as a hobby. After discovering the concept while studying fish farming, he built their first aquaponics setup in Taal, Batangas. However, the lack of available materials in the Philippines posed a challenge. Still, Edmund sourced fish tanks and other equipment from abroad, modifying them to suit their needs. Encountering such difficulties led them to realize the demand for aquaponics materials in the country.
From hobby to business
Elisa recalls how they started importing hydroton, a growing medium, due to its high price in the Philippines. However, upon receiving the items three weeks later, the sellers increased the prices, citing an unannounced change in supplier prices. As a result, Elisa decided to cancel the order.
Edmund said that “it is overpriced. It [was] very difficult to get something at that time in the Philippines to go to one shop and buy everything to build an aquaponics system.”
Driven by their own struggles in sourcing materials, Edmund and Elisa recognized the opportunity to fill the void in the market for aquaponics supplies in the Philippines. They decided to establish Aquaponics Go Green to provide a comprehensive range of products and services to support aspiring aquaponics enthusiasts. Their company quickly gained popularity and became a trusted source for aquaponics materials, offering complete setup options tailored to different production areas. Not only provide aquaponics supplies but also offer assistance and guidance to those interested in this sustainable farming method, catering to both commercial ventures and hobbyists.
Edmund and Elisa emphasized the importance of knowledge sharing within the aquaponics community. Through online platforms and personal interactions, they connected with other aquaponics practitioners, gaining valuable insights and troubleshooting common challenges. This collective experience became a crucial asset as they nurtured their own aquaponic system and expanded their expertise.
Elisa observed a surge in aquaponics interest during the pandemic, fueled by the rise of the “plantita/plantito” phenomenon. As travel restrictions limited outdoor activities, many individuals turned to DIY projects, including aquaponics setups.
Initially, they conducted seminars and workshops to educate individuals interested in aquaponics. However, the pandemic forced them to temporarily halt these activities. Nevertheless, they expressed their intent to resume seminars in the near future, catering to students and enthusiasts from diverse backgrounds.
Elisa and Edmund believe that they should help anyone, especially students and individuals, interested in aquaponics by sharing their knowledge and experiences. They welcome visits to their demo farm, where visitors can observe and learn from their setup while receiving guidance on building their own systems.
“If students are interested in learning about aquaponics, they are welcome to visit our demo farm. They can take pictures and ask questions. Based on our experience, students, mostly studying engineering and architecture, have found that only Aquaponics Go Green responds to their inquiries. We are eager to help them,” Elisa said.
Edmund added that “As a business that originated from my personal hobby, our objective is to provide assistance, guidance, and training to anyone interested in aquaponics, regardless of whether they have a limited budget or are simply looking to explore the concept. We aim to respond to their inquiries, answer their questions, and support them in their aquaponics journey, whether or not they decide to make a purchase.”
Edmund and Elisa operate primarily through their demo farm in Taal, Batangas, where they showcase the potential of aquaponics and provide visitors with firsthand experiences.
Unlocking the Potential of Aquaponics
One of the unique aspects of aquaponics is its versatility in growing a variety of crops. Elisa and Edmund have successfully cultivated different plants, including cherry tomatoes, kale, and watercress. They emphasize that any plant can thrive in aquaponics with the right techniques and adaptations. To further demonstrate the potential of aquaponics, they mentioned Australian aquaponics farmer Murray Hallam, who successfully grows papaya in his system.
While aquaponics thrives in various climates, Edmund pointed out that certain factors, such as extreme heat, can impact productivity. He highlighted that locations with cooler climates, like Baguio, would yield more productive outcomes compared to warmer regions like Taal. Nevertheless, their aquaponic system in Taal continues to support the growth of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, herbs, and other crops.
Edmund reassured aspiring aquaponics enthusiasts that the practice is not as complex as it may initially seem. “Many people are familiar with aquariums, and the concept of having an aquarium is similar to aquaponics. The key difference is that in an aquarium, the plant life is submerged underwater, whereas in aquaponics, the plants are typically placed on top of the water or in a grow bed,” Edmund said
By following a set of guidelines and principles, aquaponics can be easily mastered. Edmund stressed that the key components involve regular fish feeding and periodic checks on water quality to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Aquaponics offers numerous advantages over traditional farming methods. “Compared to traditional soil-based gardening, aquaponics offers advantages. For instance, maintaining a small garden involves tasks like weeding and frequent watering in the morning and evening. This can lead to significant water loss. With aquaponics, the need for manual weeding and watering is eliminated. Instead, the focus is primarily on feeding the fish,” Edmund said. He mentioned that the only maintenance primarily involves checking water quality and occasionally cleaning filters
Elisa emphasizes that aquaponics is a patient endeavor in the beginning, as some individuals tend to opt for hydroponics due to its perceived simplicity. However, she said that “in my opinion, these fertilizers in hydroponics often contain chemicals that can have negative effects on the environment and health. Aquaponics is healthier. I consider it to be organic in nature.”
Edmund added that “Adding essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, or calcium to an aquaponic system is similar to taking a food supplement tablet in the morning. Just as humans require minerals for normal functioning, plants also need these minerals to thrive. Introducing harmful chemicals to an aquaponic system would indeed have detrimental effects, leading to the death of the fish and potentially causing the entire system to fail.”
Elisa revealed that many individuals, particularly OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), express interest in aquaponics and its associated business opportunities. However, Elisa emphasizes the importance of starting an aquaponics business on a small scale. “This allows for a better understanding of the aquaponics cycle, the specific plants they wish to grow, and the market demand for their produce,” she said.
Elisa and Edmund envision a world where aquaponics becomes a common practice. They stated that the ultimate mission is to encourage individuals to adopt aquaponics systems in their backyards, enabling them to grow their own food sustainably.
Photo courtesy of Aquaponics Go Green