If there’s one environmental issue we should all be nervously contemplating, it’s the crisis involving the shortage of our most valuable resource — fresh water.
For residents of California, the crisis is already here, and the need to find a solution can’t be put off any longer. Californians have been bombarded by the media with distressing before and after pics of the state’s dried up rivers and lakes.
Because of the direness of the situation, California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order for mandatory water restrictions earlier this month. However, most of the state’s water isn’t being wasted by people taking long showers. According to The Natural Resources Defense Council, an overwhelming 80% of California’s water supply is used for agriculture even though it only makes up about 2% of California’s economy. It would seem, then, that we are in supreme need of a more environmentally sustainable and efficient method for growing crops.
Enter entrepreneurs Kevin Liang, 22, and Eric Suen, 21, the founders of Aqua Design Innovations — they believe that their developed aquaponics concept is the solution we need.
According to Google Dictionary:
According to the Aqua Design Innovations, aquaponics can grow food 30% to 50% faster while using less space and 90% less water.
NextShark interviewed Kevin and Eric last year when they campaigned for their first model of the Ecoqube, a miniature, water-efficient ecosystem for growing herbs and small plants in the home. After the overwhelming success of their crowdfunding campaign, they set out to improve their product and spread the word about the amazing benefits of aquaponic systems.
Today, Aqua Design Innovations launched their new Kickstarter campaign for the “Ecoqube C,” an even cheaper and more efficient miniature aquaponics system. As of this writing, they have already surpassed their $15,000 goal.
Kevin discussed with us ADI’s new project, California’s water crisis and how a future with aquaponics could solve some of the most major environmental issues we face today.
What do you feel are the factors contributing to California’s current drought?
“We think the origin of any problem is the disconnect we have with the issue — lack of awareness and education. Most of us take clean water and long, hot showers for granted. We have no idea how our food is grown.
Most of California’s water is used for agriculture, and our food crops take up less than half of the water that is provided. Most of the water used to grow food just collects pesticide and chemical fertilizers and run out right into our rivers, lakes and ocean, polluting all the waterways.”
How serious is this situation in your opinion? How accurate has the media been portraying the drought?
“I think media usually tends to blow things out of proportion, but this is SUPER serious. Population density in California is quite low if you compare it to metropolitan areas in most parts of Asia, so we shouldn’t be running out of water. The fact that we’re running out of water already with such low population density means we all need to look at this issue seriously and find a solution to dramatically reduce the 20% channels that use 80% of our water in California. Agriculture is definitely one of them.”
Why is Aquaponics the solution to controlling drought from occurring?
“Aquaponics is a way to grow food, raise fish and filter water in almost any weather as long as there is light. It also saves 90% or more of the water used and eliminates the 1 billion pounds of pesticides and fertilizers while doubling their productivity in half the amount of space.”
How does the EcoQube C come into play as being part of the solution rather than just being a cool product?
“We believe by introducing the concept of aquaponics in an accessible way (in the form of a gorgeous, low maintenance aquarium), we can get more people to understand the benefits of aquaponics and really influence their connection with our environment and food. The EcoQube C will come with a science project kit that allows parents to interact and learn with their kids.”
Why did you choose to release this product? Your last campaign was successful, and this current one looks relatively similar to the last one.
“After shipping the EcoQube 1, we gathered a lot of feedback and decided the fastest and most economical way to implement the feedback we got was to build a whole new product from scratch. By engineering the entire product from bottom up, we were also able to reduce the cost dramatically. This is REALLY important to us not just from a business standpoint but because it allows us to ship the concept of aquaponics to more people than ever.”
What would you say has been the biggest challenge when it comes to building your startup?
“Attracting and doing business with the right people. After all, we’re just a group of people trying to come up with a better product. The better the people, the better the product and the better our service will be for our customers. For a long time, I was very focused on building, creating and executing our internal plans, never reaching out much to look for help unless we really needed it. After several experiences, I realized meeting the one right person can change your business 100%.”
Why have we been so slow in adopting this more efficient way of growing agriculture? How far along do you think it is before aquaponics becomes more mainstream?
“Aquaponics is not very technical compared to everything else we’ve got today. So technology is not a limiting factor. The only limiting factor is people’s willingness to do it, which I break down into two components. First, is people have to know about it. We surveyed 500 people in La Jolla and UCSD, including professors and students. Unfortunately, only 39 knew what aquaponics is, and out of the 39, only 6 could explain the benefits of aquaponics. Second, is people need to be incentivized (usually economical) to make the transition. So taking both of those into account, I would estimate 15-20 years before aquaponics becomes one of many mainstream ways to produce food. Of course, we’re trying to make our dent by expediting the educational portion.”