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Special Issue "Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 September 2016).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. M. Haïssam Jijakli

Laboratory of Integrated and Urban Plant Pathology, Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liège, Passage des déportés, 2–5030, Gembloux, Belgium
Website | E-Mail
Interests: aquaponics, hydroponics, aquatic microbiology, biocontrol of plant pathogen in aquatic environment, microbial wastewater treatment, water quality measurement, urban agriculture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Aquaponics is an emerging method of local food production worldwide, using closed integrated production systems to grow vegetables and fish in a variety of contexts, including urban environments. It may be defined as an integrated, quasi closed-loop, multi-trophic food production system, comprising a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) and a hydroponic unit, ensuring high levels of water reuse and nutrient recycling.

Aquaponics is typically a multidisciplinary topic, covering several domains, such as aquaculture (fish feed, fish health, fish yield, fish wellbeing, sludge waste, sludge mineralization, sludge reuse, etc.), hydroponics (plant yield and growth, plant nutrition, plant nutrition through sludge recirculation, plant protection, etc.), water (water quality, water waste, water recirculation, etc.), microbiology (biological properties, microbiota characterization, population dynamic, quorum sensing, etc.), engineering for industrial and domestic uses (elaboration of production systems, sizing, modelling, monitoring of the systems, monitoring of water and water quality, automation, etc.).

A successful development of aquaponics could insure, in the next decades, a substantial part of human food while having a neutral impact on the environment. The aim of this Special Issue is, therefore, to summarize and disseminate recent scientific findings in aquaponics. A special attention will be paid to scientific progress leading to the development of a sustainable production system.

Prof. Dr. M. Haïssam Jijakli
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • aquaponics;
  • aquaculture;
  • hydroponic;
  • fish nutrition;
  • plant nutrition;
  • water quality;
  • aquatic microbiology;
  • aquaponic system design;
  • modelling

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

Jump to: Research, Review

Open AccessEditorial
Strategic Points in Aquaponics
Water 2017, 9(3), 182; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9030182
Received: 2 December 2016 / Accepted: 16 February 2017 / Published: 3 March 2017
Cited by 18 | PDF Full-text (356 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Global environmental, social and economic challenges drive the need for new and improved solutions for food production and consumption. Food production within a sustainability corridor requires innovations exceeding traditional paradigms, acknowledging the complexity arising from sustainability. However, there is a lack of knowledge [...] Read more.
Global environmental, social and economic challenges drive the need for new and improved solutions for food production and consumption. Food production within a sustainability corridor requires innovations exceeding traditional paradigms, acknowledging the complexity arising from sustainability. However, there is a lack of knowledge about how to direct further activities, to develop technologies as potential solutions for questions related to climate change, loss of soil fertility and biodiversity, scarcity of resources, and shortage of drinking water. One approach that promises to address these problems is controlled environment agriculture. Aquaponics (AP) combines two technologies: recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS) and hydroponics (plant production in water, without soil) in a closed-loop system. One challenge to the development of this technology is the conversion of the toxic ammonium produced by the fish into nitrate, via bacteria in a biofilter, to provide nitrogen to the plants. However, as this Special Issue shows, there are many other challenges that need to be addressed if the goal of the technology is to contribute to more sustainable food production systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review

Open AccessArticle
Commercial Aquaponics Approaching the European Market: To Consumers’ Perceptions of Aquaponics Products in Europe
Water 2017, 9(2), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9020080
Received: 1 October 2016 / Accepted: 16 January 2017 / Published: 31 January 2017
Cited by 14 | PDF Full-text (561 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The first commercial aquaponics companies are starting up in Europe. The main focus has been on solving technology issues and optimizing production. However, increasing attention is now being paid to certification and regulations linked to aquaponics, as well as the marketing of products [...] Read more.
The first commercial aquaponics companies are starting up in Europe. The main focus has been on solving technology issues and optimizing production. However, increasing attention is now being paid to certification and regulations linked to aquaponics, as well as the marketing of products and services. The paper presents the results of a study whose main aim was to estimate consumers’ knowledge about aquaponics and their acceptance of aquaponics products in different European regions. An on-line questionnaire was administered to the general public through the aquaponics network of Food and Agriculture COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action FA1305 “The EU Aquaponics Hub—Realising Sustainable Integrated Fish and Vegetable Production for the EU” in 16 European countries. The methodology includes univariate and multivariate statistical techniques. The results show that, on average, attitudes towards aquaponics were positive, showing no significant differences between those who already knew about aquaponics and those who only heard about it through the survey. More than 50% of respondents had never heard of aquaponics, whilst more than 70% had already heard of hydroponics. No more than 17% of respondents were willing to pay more for aquaponically produced products and no more than 40% more when compared to the price of products from conventional farming. The results confirm three different clusters of potential consumers of aquaponics products. They also suggest an urgent need for implementing integrated and holistic approaches involving all stakeholders in aquaponics, in order to define a marketing plan and efficient communication strategies. This COST action, other projects and public decision makers must invest in educating consumers about aquaponics through the organization of guided tours, thematic workshops and tastings of aquaponics products in order to raise their awareness about this new technology. It is absolutely urgent that public decision makers, in cooperation with aquaponics stakeholders, address the main institutional constraints, namely the introduction of aquaponics as an economic activity and the organic certification of aquaponics products. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Open AccessArticle
Influence of UV Treatment on the Food Safety Status of a Model Aquaponic System
Water 2017, 9(1), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9010027
Received: 12 September 2016 / Revised: 30 November 2016 / Accepted: 21 December 2016 / Published: 6 January 2017
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1702 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Few microbial studies in aquaponics, a growing trend in food production, have been conducted to determine food safety status. The aim of this study was to determine the food safety status and the effectiveness of ultraviolet treatment (15 W, luminous flux of 900 [...] Read more.
Few microbial studies in aquaponics, a growing trend in food production, have been conducted to determine food safety status. The aim of this study was to determine the food safety status and the effectiveness of ultraviolet treatment (15 W, luminous flux of 900 lm) as a food safety intervention in reducing the microbial loads of the water system in a model aquaponic unit growing lettuce, basil, and barramundi (Australian Sea Bass). Sweet basil, bibb lettuce, water samples, and fish swabs were collected throughout the 118-day production period, and microbial analysis was conducted in triplicate for the presence of E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp., and the prevalence of aerobic plate counts (APC), coliforms, and fecal coliforms in these systems. Absence of foodborne pathogens was confirmed using ELISA technology and enumeration through petrifilms (coliform/E. coli). A significant increase was observed in aerobic plate counts over the trial period (1 to 3 log10 CFU·mL−1) in the presence and absence of UV (p > 0.05). Ultraviolet treatment did not significantly reduce the APC or coliform counts when compared to the control system samples. Future work should focus on improving the unit design, the evaluation of bio-solid filtration, and other food safety interventions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Open AccessArticle
Nutrients and Energy Balance Analysis for a Conceptual Model of a Three Loops off Grid, Aquaponics
Water 2016, 8(12), 589; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8120589
Received: 26 September 2016 / Revised: 27 November 2016 / Accepted: 1 December 2016 / Published: 10 December 2016
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (1835 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Food security, specifically in water scarce regions, is an increasing local and global challenge. Finding new ways to increase agricultural production in a sustainable manner is required. The current study suggests a conceptual model to integrate established recirculating aquaculture practices into a near-zero [...] Read more.
Food security, specifically in water scarce regions, is an increasing local and global challenge. Finding new ways to increase agricultural production in a sustainable manner is required. The current study suggests a conceptual model to integrate established recirculating aquaculture practices into a near-zero discharge aquaponic system that efficiently utilizes water, excreted nutrients and organic matter for energy. The suggested model allows to significantly extend the planted area and recover energy in the form of biogas to operate the system off-grid. A mass balance model of nitrogen, carbon and energy was established and solved, based on data from the literature. Results demonstrate that a fish standing stock of about 700 kg would produce 3.4 tons of fish annually and enough nutrients to grow about 35 tons of tomatoes per year (chosen as a model plant) and recover sufficient energy (70 kWh/day) to run the system on biogas and use less water. If proven successful, this approach may play a major role in sustainably enhancing food security in rural and water scarce regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Open AccessArticle
Tomato Productivity and Quality in Aquaponics: Comparison of Three Hydroponic Methods
Water 2016, 8(11), 533; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8110533
Received: 14 September 2016 / Revised: 5 November 2016 / Accepted: 9 November 2016 / Published: 16 November 2016
Cited by 14 | PDF Full-text (10567 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Aquaponics (AP) is a food production system that combines hydroponic (HP) crop production with recirculating aquaculture. Different types of hydroponic systems have been used for growing crops in aquaponics. However, very few studies have compared their suitability and efficiency in an aquaponic context. [...] Read more.
Aquaponics (AP) is a food production system that combines hydroponic (HP) crop production with recirculating aquaculture. Different types of hydroponic systems have been used for growing crops in aquaponics. However, very few studies have compared their suitability and efficiency in an aquaponic context. The study presented here compares tomato yield, morphological (external) and biochemical (internal) fruit quality, and overall tomato plant vitality from three different HP systems (nutrient film technique, drip irrigation system, and floating raft culture) and examines the distribution of nutrients in different parts of the tomato plant. Three replicate AP systems were set up, each incorporating the three different HP systems coupled with a separate recirculating aquaculture unit growing Nile tilapia. The results showed that the choice of the cultivation system had little influence on most of the above-mentioned properties. Tomato fruit mineral content was found to be in similar range for N, P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, and Zn as reported in the literature. Yield and fruit quality were similar in all three systems. However, the drip irrigation system did perform slightly better. The slightly higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of the fruits grown in AP in comparison to commercially produced and supermarket derived tomatoes might indicate a potential for producing fruits with higher health value for humans. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Open AccessCommunication
Potential for Combined Biocontrol Activity against Fungal Fish and Plant Pathogens by Bacterial Isolates from a Model Aquaponic System
Water 2016, 8(11), 518; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8110518
Received: 16 September 2016 / Revised: 24 October 2016 / Accepted: 2 November 2016 / Published: 7 November 2016
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (191 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
One of the main challenges in aquaponics is disease control. One possible solution for this is biological control with organisms exerting inhibitory effects on fish and plant pathogens. The aim of this study was to examine the potential of isolating microorganisms that exert [...] Read more.
One of the main challenges in aquaponics is disease control. One possible solution for this is biological control with organisms exerting inhibitory effects on fish and plant pathogens. The aim of this study was to examine the potential of isolating microorganisms that exert an inhibitory effect on both plant and fish pathogens from an established aquaponic system. We obtained 924 isolates on selective King’s B agar and 101 isolates on MRS agar from different compartments of a model aquaponic system and tested them for antagonism against the plant pathogen Pythium ultimum and fish pathogen Saprolegnia parasitica. Overall, 42 isolates were able to inhibit both fungi. Although not yet tested in vivo, these findings open new options for the implementation of biological control of diseases in aquaponics, where plants and fish are cultivated in the same water recirculating system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
Open AccessArticle
Survey of Aquaponics in Europe
Water 2016, 8(10), 468; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8100468
Received: 30 August 2016 / Revised: 7 October 2016 / Accepted: 14 October 2016 / Published: 20 October 2016
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (924 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
International aquaponic production has increased over the past decade, but less is known about research activities and production facilities operating in Europe. We conducted an online survey to get a better idea about research and production in Europe, focusing on five areas of [...] Read more.
International aquaponic production has increased over the past decade, but less is known about research activities and production facilities operating in Europe. We conducted an online survey to get a better idea about research and production in Europe, focusing on five areas of aquaponics (i.e., demographics, facilities used, fish and crops produced, funding sources, and personal or company priorities for further development). The 68 respondents were distributed among 21 European countries, 43% were working at a university, and 19% were commercial producers. Only 11.8% of those surveyed had sold fish or plants in the past 12 months. Most respondents were male (66.2%) and had a post-graduate degree (91.7%). Facilities were generally new (74.5% constructed after 2010) and self-designed. Production figures were modest, with less than 10 respondents producing more than 1000 kg of fish or plants per year (mostly tilapia or catfish and herbs or lettuce). Systems were often funded by government grants (35.3%). The great majority of respondents (80.4%) stated that aquaponics was not their main source of income. Most respondents prioritized using aquaponics for educational purposes, while few (25%) used it to produce their own food or improve their health. Questions related to personal knowledge about aquaponics underlined the need for more training about fish diseases and plant pests. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Open AccessArticle
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. var. Sucrine) Growth Performance in Complemented Aquaponic Solution Outperforms Hydroponics
Water 2016, 8(10), 467; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8100467
Received: 6 July 2016 / Revised: 3 October 2016 / Accepted: 14 October 2016 / Published: 19 October 2016
Cited by 18 | PDF Full-text (420 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Plant growth performance is optimized under hydroponic conditions. The comparison between aquaponics and hydroponics has attracted considerable attention recently, particularly regarding plant yield. However, previous research has not focused on the potential of using aquaponic solution complemented with mineral elements to commercial hydroponic [...] Read more.
Plant growth performance is optimized under hydroponic conditions. The comparison between aquaponics and hydroponics has attracted considerable attention recently, particularly regarding plant yield. However, previous research has not focused on the potential of using aquaponic solution complemented with mineral elements to commercial hydroponic levels in order to increase yield. For this purpose, lettuce plants were put into AeroFlo installations and exposed to hydroponic (HP), aquaponic (AP), or complemented aquaponic (CAP) solutions. The principal finding of this research was that AP and HP treatments exhibited similar (p > 0.05) plant growth, whereas the shoot weight of the CAP treatment showed a significant (p < 0.05) growth rate increase of 39% on average compared to the HP and AP treatments. Additionally, the root weight was similar (p > 0.05) in AP and CAP treatments, and both were significantly higher (p < 0.05) than that observed in the HP treatment. The results highlight the beneficial effect of recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) water on plant growth. The findings represent a further step toward developing decoupled aquaponic systems (i.e., two- or multi-loops) that have the potential to establish a more productive alternative to hydroponic systems. Microorganisms and dissolved organic matter are suspected to play an important role in RAS water for promoting plant roots and shoots growth. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Open AccessArticle
Evaluation of Dicentrarchus labrax Meats and the Vegetable Quality of Beta vulgaris var. cicla Farmed in Freshwater and Saltwater Aquaponic Systems
Water 2016, 8(10), 423; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8100423
Received: 10 August 2016 / Revised: 20 September 2016 / Accepted: 20 September 2016 / Published: 26 September 2016
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (3931 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The purpose of this study is to exploit the euryhaline nature of commercially attractive species for their cultivation in freshwater aquaponic systems. This approach may increase the profitability of aquaponic production in coastal countries where the consumption of marine fish is traditional and [...] Read more.
The purpose of this study is to exploit the euryhaline nature of commercially attractive species for their cultivation in freshwater aquaponic systems. This approach may increase the profitability of aquaponic production in coastal countries where the consumption of marine fish is traditional and of commercial relevance. For this purpose, juvenile European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) were reared in an aquaponic freshwater (AFW) system and an aquaponic saltwater (ASW) system (salinity 20 ppt), in combination with chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla) seedlings, a salt tolerant plant. At the end of the trial, nitrate and phosphate concentration in water significantly increased in the ASW system, suggesting that the ability of B. vulgaris to absorb these substances was limited by salinity. Total reflection X-ray fluorescence spectrometry revealed that the concentration of some oligoelements such as Fe remained lower with respect to the concentration in the freshwater hydroponic solution, in both AFW and ASW. FTIR-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy on plants showed that growth at high salinity affected their lipid content. In the case of fish, freshwater had no effects on mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acid profiles, although saturated fatty acids were significantly decreased in D. labrax reared in AFW. Our results demonstrates that it is possible to increase aquaponic profitability by farming D. labrax juveniles in an aquaponic freshwater system together with Beta vulgaris, obtaining good quality products. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Open AccessArticle
Navigating towards Decoupled Aquaponic Systems: A System Dynamics Design Approach
Water 2016, 8(7), 303; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8070303
Received: 24 February 2016 / Revised: 13 June 2016 / Accepted: 12 July 2016 / Published: 21 July 2016
Cited by 33 | PDF Full-text (6094 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The classical working principle of aquaponics is to provide nutrient-rich aquacultural water to a hydroponic plant culture unit, which in turn depurates the water that is returned to the aquaculture tanks. A known drawback is that a compromise away from optimal growing conditions [...] Read more.
The classical working principle of aquaponics is to provide nutrient-rich aquacultural water to a hydroponic plant culture unit, which in turn depurates the water that is returned to the aquaculture tanks. A known drawback is that a compromise away from optimal growing conditions for plants and fish must be achieved to produce both crops and fish in the same environmental conditions. The objective of this study was to develop a theoretical concept of a decoupled aquaponic system (DAPS), and predict water, nutrient (N and P), fish, sludge, and plant levels. This has been approached by developing a dynamic aquaponic system model, using inputs from data found in literature covering the fields of aquaculture, hydroponics, and sludge treatment. The outputs from the model showed the dependency of aquacultural water quality on the hydroponic evapotranspiration rate. This result can be explained by the fact that DAPS is based on one-way flows. These one-way flows results in accumulations of remineralized nutrients in the hydroponic component ensuring optimal conditions for the plants. The study also suggests to size the cultivation area based on P availability in the hydroponic component as P is an exhaustible resource and has been identified one of the main limiting factors for plant growth. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Fish Welfare in Aquaponic Systems: Its Relation to Water Quality with an Emphasis on Feed and Faeces—A Review
Water 2017, 9(1), 13; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9010013
Received: 30 September 2016 / Revised: 9 December 2016 / Accepted: 20 December 2016 / Published: 1 January 2017
Cited by 12 | PDF Full-text (263 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish) and hydroponic cultivation of plants. This review examines fish welfare in relation to rearing water quality, fish feed and fish waste and faeces to develop a sustainable aquaponic system where the co-cultured organisms, fish, bacteria in [...] Read more.
Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (fish) and hydroponic cultivation of plants. This review examines fish welfare in relation to rearing water quality, fish feed and fish waste and faeces to develop a sustainable aquaponic system where the co-cultured organisms, fish, bacteria in biofilters and plants, should be considered holistically in all aquaponics operations. Water quality parameters are the primary environmental consideration for optimizing aquaponic production and for directly impacting fish welfare/health issues and plant needs. In aquaponic systems, the uptake of nutrients should be maximised for the healthy production of the plant biomass but without neglecting the best welfare conditions for the fish in terms of water quality. Measures to reduce the risks of the introduction or spread of diseases or infection and to increase biosecurity in aquaponics are also important. In addition, the possible impacts of allelochemicals, i.e., chemicals released by the plants, should be taken into account. Moreover, the effect of diet digestibility, faeces particle size and settling ratio on water quality should be carefully considered. As available information is very limited, research should be undertaken to better elucidate the relationship between appropriate levels of minerals needed by plants, and fish metabolism, health and welfare. It remains to be investigated whether and to what extent the concentrations of suspended solids that can be found in aquaponic systems can compromise the health of fish. Water quality, which directly affects fish health and well-being, is the key factor to be considered in all aquaponic systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
Open AccessReview
The Development of Sustainable Saltwater-Based Food Production Systems: A Review of Established and Novel Concepts
Water 2016, 8(12), 598; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8120598
Received: 16 October 2016 / Revised: 17 November 2016 / Accepted: 8 December 2016 / Published: 16 December 2016
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (379 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The demand for seafood products on the global market is rising, particularly in Asia, as affluence and appreciation of the health benefits of seafood increase. This is coupled with a capture fishery that, at best, is set for stagnation and, at worst, significant [...] Read more.
The demand for seafood products on the global market is rising, particularly in Asia, as affluence and appreciation of the health benefits of seafood increase. This is coupled with a capture fishery that, at best, is set for stagnation and, at worst, significant collapse. Global aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of the food industry and currently accounts for approximately 45.6% of the world’s fish consumption. However, the rapid development of extensive and semi-extensive systems, particularly intensive marine-fed aquaculture, has resulted in worldwide concern about the potential environmental, economic, and social impacts of such systems. In recent years, there has been a significant amount of research conducted on the development of sustainable saltwater-based food production systems through mechanical (e.g., recirculatory aquaculture (RAS) systems) methods and ecosystem-based approaches (e.g., integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA)). This review article will examine the potential negative impacts of monocultural saltwater aquaculture operations and review established (RAS) and novel (IMTA; constructed wetlands; saltwater aquaponics) saltwater-based food production systems and discuss their (potential) contribution to the development of sustainable and environmentally-friendly systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Aquaponics: Toward a Sustainable Water-Based Production System?)
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