The Connection Between Aquaponics and Lotus

The lotus flower has held a special significance for many cultures across Asia.  The beautiful, vibrant, colorful flower can be seen extending out of the muddy waters surrounding it. In the Buddhist religion, the lotus represents one’s spiritual journey: rising out of the murk a soul is born into in order to find purification and enlightenment. Today, the lotus flower may symbolize the journey of the Cambodian people: rising above poverty and trauma from previous wounds to find a better life.

The flower is a sacred symbol for the Buddhist tradition, but its properties are helping progress science and technology as you are reading this. The lotus has captured the interest of the scientific community due to its “superhydrophobic” nature, which allows it to easily repel water from its surface. This property acts as a self-cleaning mechanism for the lotus.

This superhydrophobic property, known as the ‘lotus effect’ is the reason for the growing interest in lotus for commercial uses. The water repellant properties found in the lotus have been applied to rain wear, boat sails, paints, and windows in high-rise buildings, to name a few. The National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps recently awarded University of Virginia Professor Mool Gupta for his research on using the “lotus effect” for commercial purposes, most interestingly the ability of microtextured surfaces like that of the lotus plant to efficiently trap solar energy. Since we are planning on using solar panels for our aquaponics set-ups, we will watch closely for any future developments..

In a 2004 article titled ‘Aquatic plants for domestic wastewater treatment’ written in the Prince of Songkla University’s Journal of Science and Technology, two researchers tested the ability of lotus to treat wastewater. Their findings showed that “ponds with aquatic plants were superior to those without plants … the system with lotus showed the best removal efficiency for wastewater treatment.”

To read more about why we are so interested in Aquaponics, and the potential uses for Aquaponics in Cambodia, read our article ‘Aquaponics and Fish Farming in Cambodia’ 

Cambodia is a nation with a rich history and long standing traditions. The lotus is sacred, and its flower stands as a symbol of perseverance in the face of conflict and struggle on the way to enlightenment. As the sun rises on the Millennial Kingdom, the lotus has come to represent Cambodia’s fight to rise up and move forward. Community First will continue to find out what the lotus can do for the people who admire it. It has been able to connect the affluent in their search for elegance and fashion with the poor in their search for a better life. One day, the lotus may be able to connect the traditions of the past with the aspirations for the future.


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  • The month of August 2014 marks the beginning of our Aquaponics builds. We have three builds coming up in Siem Reap, one at Samatoa, one at the APSARA Authority, and the final one will be a chinampa style build at Golden Silk.
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Pipken , J. (2011, October 20). Engineering Professor Investigates Commercial Potential of “Lotus Effect” Research With NSF Award. UVA Today

Kanabkaew, T., & Puetpaiboon, U. (2004). Aquatic plants for domestic wastewater treatment: Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) systems. Songklanakarin J. Sci. Technol, 26(5), 749–756.