Aquaponics is defined as being the integration of recirculating aquaculture and hydroponics.
iAVs is not “hydroponics” since it is not soilless and does not rely on inorganic/ionic solutes for plant growth. The sand media is an active, complex and highly effective “biofilter”. Sand + organics + microbes = Soil.
The soil science involved in iAVs precludes its inclusion within the strict meaning of the term “Aquaponics.”
In iAVs, the focus is unabashedly on the plants. The fish in an iAVs system are the means to the end; the plants are the main game (after the bacteria). If the soil ecosystem is in good shape (ie…active, diverse, healthy, robust, vigorous), then the fish and plants both benefit.
The sand surface physically removes the suspended solid waste fraction from the aquaculture water. The soil ecosystem biologically transforms the fish ‘waste’ products (both the solids and solutes) into nutrient forms that vascular plants will assimilate. The plants perform the function of filter cleaners by extracting their nutrient from the soil and thereby limiting/preventing toxic accumulations.
The central critical aspect of iAVs is a vigorous soil ecosystem, without which the aquaculture water would not be cleansed of toxic waste product accumulations and the plants would not have access to nutrients for their growth.
This diverse and vibrant soil ecosystem is what differentiates/distinguishes iAVs from all other so-called “aquaponics” variants.
That – and productivity, resilience and sustainability.