Blockchain non-fungible token (NFT) technology applied to sustainable aquaponic food production.

by James Devlin

We are beginning to realize the scope and impact of the blockchain on established and emerging businesses. Companies can now operate more transparently by creating and consuming information on a public blockchain. Seamless interactions and transactions are being facilitated by programmable fast digital marketplaces and sets of contractual terms, known as smart contracts.

Organizations are currently leveraging the blockchain as a financial ledger. Supply chain information can also be stored in the blockchain. This paper will address the use of blockchain technology as applied to agricultural production and distribution. Notably, the production of fish and vegetables using sustainable aquaponic technology.

Tokenization for a digital audience.

To tokenize the sustainable production of an entire industry is a large task. First, we must begin by creating a token model. An example token model will accurately depict the entire production and consumption process. Record of transactions of all inputs, outputs, and byproducts is needed to properly create these models. Plants and fish in an aquaponic system consume a specific amount of food and other resources and produce a specific amount of waste and byproducts.

Monitoring transactions in real time is one of the advantages of the blockchain. One would be able to get current pricing on the marketplace for every component of the system. Knowing the current value (and historical value) of all the parts and products transacted in the process will bring new insight to all members of the workforce. Tokenization facilitates the frictionless transaction and record of goods and services. Digital marketplaces and smart contracts are the medium of transfer for these digital assets.

Creating a token (including token model and economy) that is transacted on a public blockchain creates opportunity for investors of all levels to participate. Free and open participation and governance of the asset class builds immense value in the integrity of the data. By transacting on the blockchain, we ensure that this data will stay intact and truthful. Inclusivity is necessary for sustainable production. Inclusion of the entire population in the production and distribution frees humanity from burden of misappropriation.

Non-fungible tokens are different.

Every product is unique. Even on a production line which is tasked with uniformity, items are still produced at different times using different batches of raw materials. Non-fungible tokens allow us to easily differentiate, classify, and track these products. QR codes or barcodes will now be tied the blockchain, where anyone can view the supply chain process resulting in the exact item they are purchasing. Consumers in this model are leveraging the power of a public blockchain to make smarter and more personalized purchases.

Consumer actions such as checking product reviews and comparing brands will be more empowering and proactive. Consumers will know exactly what goes into their fish and veggies. Retailers will be able to accurately advertise and monitor sales on a new scale. Producers will receive instant feedback on their products. No part of the production and consumption of a product will go un-documented. From raw material to product review, the entire lifecycle of our goods will be a matter of public blockchain record.

Aquaponics as a standard.

Urban areas are well suited for aquaponic facilities *[1]. These heavily populated areas will be targeted for aquaponic projects. One major reason is inner cities are a prime example of a food desert for local inhabitants *[2]. A food desert is an area where there is little access to affordable, fresh, and nutrient rich food.

Aquaponics is the production of fish and hydroponic vegetables and fruits in a contained ecosystem. The system consists of a large fish tank, filtering medium box, hydroponic grow beds (Nutrient film technology, deep bed, etc), water pump, and optional solar power and lighting. Less water is used than traditional farming methods *[3]. Less waste is produced than hydroponic production alone. Nutrient recycling within the system allows for a more balanced means of agricultural production where no waste is the goal.

95-99% of the water used in the system is recycled. Setting a new standard for water use in agricultural production. As the population increases, demand for fresh water increases as well. Agriculture uses XX% of the potable water supply *[4]. The majority being used to water livestock *[5]. Reducing water usage now, will lay the pipes for tomorrow.

Creating the digital economy.

Design the digital world in reflection of our own nature. By doing so we will enrich all around us. Individual smart contracts will preserve the state and drive transactions on the blockchain. These transactions will mimic and influence actions in the physical world. Developing a true to life token model will be the outcome of an open, receptive, and inclusive design model.

Simplicity should be a singular driving force in development. Start at a high level and move down to the smaller working pieces as the project moves forward. An aquaponic digital economy would begin with the overall inputs and outputs of the system. Inputs being physical space, sunshine/lighting, fish feed, electricity/solar, and time. General outputs include oxygen, fish protein, vegetation, excess fish waste, packaging materials, etc.

In an aquaponics system, growth times for both the fish and vegetables are consistent. Although, different fish species and vegetation species takes different times to grow. These maturation times can be brought into the token model as a method of staking. One must stake their space, resources, and livestock in the hope that the crop grows to production size.

A distinctive goal of sustainability is the reuse, recycling, or reclamation of all waste. Even the burning (digital deletion) of an asset may require a fee, e.g. trash removal. But even digital trash would be useful, it would contain all the information on the life of that product. Trash collectors, or large data collectors will archive the information. By doing so, they will receive a small fee, from the user who wishes to view the archived data. We must also account for unforeseen inputs and outputs. An example, foregoing a power outage would require the use of generators to keep the pumps and aeration systems running.

PLEASE NOTE: This document is a living working draft. And may be changed without notice.


  1. Strategic Points in Aquaponics
  2. Urban Issues: The Sprawl of Food Deserts
  3. Challenges of Sustainable and Commercial Aquaponics
  4. commercial agriculture water usage citing
  5. livestock water usage citing

Last modified: July 9, 2021