Integrated Aquaponics and Intrinsic Motivation

I am not sure how it happened but I stumbled across Kyle Chayka’s article “‘Farmscrapers’ could turn future cities green” over at Salon the other day. Despite the scale of architect Vincent Callebaut‘s “Asian Cairns” concept, I focused more on the (re)integration of agriculture back into our lives. In many ways, it is surprising that this re-integration is not more common: it seems to be easy, the cost of food (particularly fresh fruits and vegetables) is on the rise, and some industrial farming practices seem to incur significant environmental costs (e.g., colony collapse disorder). I walk out of this meandering thought wondering what might it look like when an ancient technology like agriculture gets more seamlessly integrated into our modern lives.

I have several friends who either grow some of the food they eat through backyard gardening (with either containers or greenhouses). At the far end of the spectrum is one friend who is experimenting with aquaponics. If you turn to YouTube, there is a vibrant community around aquaponics, as well as an industry that caters to it. The Food.Farmer.Earth channel on YouTube speaks to both in this video, for example:

I can’t really say that I am militant about fresh food. I appreciate it but I can live without it. This might be the result of years of living on more (and at times heavily) processed foods but I am not sure.

That said, in the context of living in ways that lower my (carbon) footprint and perhaps allow me to cut the cost of living, the idea is very interesting. For example, if I had an aquaponic system that allowed me to use the produce and fish to barter for other finished goods, I am very interested. They get enough resources to be profitable by selling finished good made with my resources to others and I am better fed than I am now by making better use of space that I already own.

In a broader sense, however, we need to turn to Ben Schiller, writing an earlier article about the farmscrapers for Co.Exist, who speaks more directly to Callebaut’s vision noting:

The design incorporates housing, office, and leisure spaces, as well as urban farming to reduce the need for imports from the countryside.

In effect, Schiller is talk about all of our homes (in terms of functionality). The question is what will our homes look like when they (vice massive skyscrapers) use integrated aquaponics in a manner complementary to other residential technologies (such as renewable energy collected and stored in ways that allow you to sell back to the grid)? Will we get to the point where we create an economy where we, through the better integration of suites of technologies, drive down the cost of living to the point where it is profitable (or at least viable) to pursue those passions and activities that have intrinsic value to us?

That last thought is the result of an article that continues to stick with me: David Graeber’s provocative opinion piece “The modern phenomenon of nonsense jobs,” which asks why, despite impressive strides forward with technology, we are working more than we ever have before.

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