One of the more commonly grown plants in aquaponic systems is aquaponic strawberries. These fun little berries are both easy to grow and can be grown in great number with the right system. Strawberries typically grace many back gardens and grow easily as long as there is plenty of water and not too much salt, in this way aquaponic strawberries are only suited for freshwater aquaponics systems. Many are more than happy to grow strawberries but are concerned for the amount of space needed to grow enough plants for a good sized crop. Varieties can include pink and white flowers, small to enormous sized fruits and a plethora of different flavors.
An alternative to using limited bed space is to grow the aquaponic strawberries in eye catching strawberry towers. Strawberry towers usually consist of a plastic pipe of some sort (PVC is popular) with cut outs for the strawberry plants to fit inside, these are then filled with gravel and connected to a pump system that pumps water in from above to drain via gravity out into collecting pipes on the bottom which will then pump the water back through the system. This also helps to minimize wasted water through evaporation as the water is flowing inside the pipes. It is important to have the water flowing in enough quantity or the aquaponic strawberries will be starved for nutrients. If you want open topped towers you can also top off the strawberries with plants such as basil or lettuce, but you will need to ensure the pump has enough power to push water to the top of the strawberry towers.
Growing strawberry plants from scratch usually requires a nursery or greenhouse set up so for many gardeners it is easier to purchase the plants as seedlings and fit into their ready build towers. Another unfortunate option with the tower system is that it does require a pump to get the water to the top of the towers as opposed to the gravity used in a hydroponic system. A hydroponic strawberry system will take a lot more space but you will also have less equipment to buy. Consider using a standard aquaponic technique of floating the strawberry plants on top if you are only looking to add in one or two, but for maximum results a strawberry tower will give you the most fruit for your space.
One of the biggest benefits to growing aquaponic strawberries in an aquaponics system is that the harvest time is almost cut in half. Traditional farming methods can take up to 3 months for each plant to fruit whereas in an aquaponic system most farmers report that their expected harvest was 5-8 weeks from planting. A longer productive time in addition means that the amount of strawberries harvested per plant can be considerably more than with conventional farming techniques. The amount of crop that you can expect from your aquaponics strawberries will vary greatly based on variety as well as whether or not you will have to replant each season. Storing runners can be a good way to keeping a constant supply of fresh new plants since older strawberry plants often lose their capacity to produce fruit in quantity.
When looking at commercially producing strawberries many companies are turning towards more eco-friendly methods and aquaponics is a great example for them to set. A large soft fruit farming company in the Netherlands now produces their signature (and exclusive) strawberry variety Lusa completely by hydroponic methods and natural greenhouse lighting. In this way they are using less water, less energy, and less chemicals to produce fruit that has a much smaller carbon footprint than its conventional counterparts. Using the same method at home can also be a great solution when home hose bans prevent watering plants since the amount of water used to keep the strawberries fed and watered is far less than conventional methods, this can keep your water bill down though the aquaponic system does require a pump over the hydroponic for adequate water supply.
Aquaponic strawberries are some of the easiest and most fun fruits to grow. Choosing the right variety for your needs can keep you in fruit for months. Choosing an aquaponic tower instead of conventional methods or hydroponics can also help maximize your space usage. Aquaponic planting may seem like a lot of work, but it speaks for itself with results.