It’s safe to say that at GrowUp, we are environmentally minded and conscious of the impact that we, as humans, have on the world in which we live. One of the main reasons we think aquaponics has a role to play in sustainable farming future is that aquaponic farming has fewer inputs than traditional methods and produces bigger yields. So in terms of energy, water and chemical consumption, aquaponic urban farming can offer a more sustainable alternative.
Instead of disposing of nutrient rich waste water from the fish tanks and using chemical fertilisers and fresh water to feed the plants, we use nutrients for the fish waste to feed the plants; these in turn clean the water for the fish.
Our HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system uses a combination of free cooling and heat recovery to minimise the ebergy used to produce the food we consume. It enables us to use the temperature of outside air to increase the efficiency of the cooling system, while minimising the heat lost through ventilation. We’ve worked with international engineering firm Arup to optimise this system. The results of their energy modelling found that by replacing 10% of the air volume in the growing room with fresh air every hour we can reduce the energy use for heating, cooling and dehumidification by 50% compared to a system that uses no free cooling. Furthermore, excess heat produced by our growing lights is used to maintain a steady temperature in the aquaculture space, reducing the need for active heating of the water in the aquaculture system.
With this in mind, our biggest input is certainly electricity. In order to hold true to our values, we wanted to minimise the negative environmental effect of this usage. So we chose to be powered with electricity from entirely renewable sources: wind. For this, we went to Ecotricity whose electricity has the lowest carbon footprint in Britain and is the only company that can offer a completely renewable electricity mix. Their continued and increasing success since 1995 is testament to the consumer consciousness and demand for energy from renewable sources.
We were thus disappointed to hear that the government is ending subsidies to onshore wind farms. The European Commission has warned that this decision may mean the UK misses its EU renewable energy target for 2020 and it comes in contrast to the agreement of the G7 to phase out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century. Clearly the imperative and the motivation to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels is there; the incentive, in subsidising renewable energy to make it cost effective for the consumer, needs to be strengthened, not removed.
We want our energy use to make a positive contribution to sustainable energy and encourage the growth of this sector. If more people were to do the same, plans that hindered the growth of the renewables market, such as this latest announcement from the government, would be a thing of the past. Making a commitment to using renewable energy to power our business puts our money into wind power and is a positive investment for the future.