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Aquaponics is the raising of fish and plants in recirculating systems whereby the fish provide nutrients to the plants and the beneficial bacteria and plants help to return the water clean to the fish. It’s a highly productive eco-system with many extraordinary benefits, most notably its ability to conserve water with minimal if any discharge. While there is plenty of information out there about the benefits of aquaponics, let’s talk about some specifics regarding system design that could be particularly important for mitigating some of the risks and challenges often found with aquaponics. To provide some context and scale, I’m using my aquaponics facility, Flourish Farms which occupies a 3,200 sq ft greenhouse. However, these ideas are applicable to any scale system.
When the fish system is running on its own loop, the hydroponic system can also continue flowing via its own pump. In our farm, water pumps from the last deep water culture trough back to the first trough maintaining continuous flow through all four troughs. This can also be run through a second sump.
· Power failures and a lack of good backup, monitoring and alerting systems.
· Loss of water due to a blockage, overflow, rupture or operator error.
· Poor temperature control and water quality management. Variability in temperature can be highly stressful on fish and if you are not able to properly control temperature, fish may stop eating. If your fish stop eating this affects the nutrient dynamics in your system.
· Fish disease can also creep up quickly if the temperature, water quality and health of the fish are not being regularly monitored or you are not quarantining fish upon arrival from other sources.
Another advantage is that the hydroponic troughs (DWC) can be run at their own flow rate if so desired. In other words, when the fish and plant system is running together in normal operating mode using a single pump, the hydroponic pump could be used to circulate water at a variable flow rate through the DWC troughs as well. This requires the running of two pumps, but if increasing flow rate in the hydroponic troughs is desirable than the separate DWC pump and plumbing gives the operator the ability to do so. This could be beneficial in case water flow rates are too low through the troughs. Water quality parameters can also be managed independently and optimized for each system. For example, fish tend to like a higher pH and plants like a lower pH. Temperature could also be managed independently depending on the location, environmental controls, fish species etc.
When reconnecting the two systems, it will be important to ensure ammonia and nitrites have been fully oxidized and are at safe levels for the fish. Water temperature, pH, Alkalinity and other factors affecting water quality may not be properly aligned between the fish and plant system so adjustments to these levels may be necessary to make a seamless transition and minimize stress on your fish. There may also be other elements of the hydroponic nutrient solution that could be problematic for fish at certain levels. For example we raise hybrid striped bass which are sensitive to potassium. It is always important to do your homework when you are considering adding something to your aquaponics environment. Thinning out the solution and exchanging with fresh water may be required to help reduce any potential toxicity and allow you to safely reconnect both environments.
JD Sawyer, Colorado Aquaponics
Many of you who have been following us for a while may recognize this site as our very first website with some minor updates. If you were tired of the old website, well, we apologize because it's back. We tried a different web platform and design in 2014 and it just didn't click with us (no pun intended) and the functionality and "hominess" was just not there for us. When you invest time and energy into something it can be hard to make the decision to scrap it and move on. But we did and I'm personally very happy to have our old site up and running again. As always its a work in progress and we will do our best to make it as easy, informative and comfortable as possible. It's not so different with aquaponics systems either. Many of us who have built their own systems have continually made improvements, started over, made mistakes, made discoveries etc... That's what it's all about and will continue to be for everyone or at least should be.
So stay in touch and we'll do the same. Come visit the farm and bring the kids. The GrowHaus and Flourish are looking awesome in 2015 and we're expecting to have our best year ever.
You've discovered aquaponics, you're psyched about the possibilities, you want to take your knowledge and understanding to the next level...but where to start? It's easy to get overwhelmed with all of the components and science jargon when starting up your own home system. As a designer by trade, the part that I love most about building a home aquaponics system is the flexibility and customization options it affords; Go for an easy assembly kit or get down and dirty with the materials that you have around you! And that's exactly what Robert Eschbach of Denver did! We had been corresponding with Robert for several months over the summer with some water cycling questions before adding some of our Tilapia to his home system. He picked up 4 Blue Niles and 2 Rocky Mountain Whites in August. About a month later these photos arrived from Robert who thought they might be just the inspiration others need to get started.
CA: So Robert, how did you first learn about Aquaponics?
RE: One of my friends posted an article on Facebook several months ago. I've always been interested in sustainability and was fascinated with the concept. From there I started researching on my own, primarily through online forums on aquaponics.
CA: Describe your system for us.
RE: I have a 55 gallon fish tank set beneath my grow bed. There are two holes in the bottom of the growbed, one where the water is pumped in to the bed and the other for the bell siphon. About 1/3 of the fish tank water is pumped up to the growbed which fills about every 10 minutes. There's one fluorescent light on a pulley system over the growbed to provide supplementary light to the plants.
CA: How many fish do you have in there?
RE: Right now there are 5 fish total, one Rocky Mountain White juvenile and four Blue Nile fingerlings.
CA: What types of things are you growing?
RE: Lettuce, Mesclun greens, Peas, Basil, Wheat Grass. Everything is about two months old. I started them by simply broadcasting seeds straight into the media bed.
CA: How much money do you think you have put into building and maintaining your system?
RE: Probably about $500.
CA: What was your biggest obstacle/most frustrating moment?
RE: The Bell Siphon! Getting just the right amount of flow into the bed in order to start the siphon took a lot of trial and error. The water pump tube clogs up and slows the rate of flow. I recommend not gluing in any of the plumbing pipes so that you can easily make adjustments as needed. Don't get too anxious to get it started and know that it may take a lot of tweaking to get your system flowing just right.
CA: What was your best resource for aquaponic knowledge?
RE: I did all my research with free blogs and forums found on the internet. I can't remember the exact names of them, but there is a ton of free resources on the web.
CA: Any last thoughts you want to impart to those who are dreaming of having their own home aquaponics systems?
RE: It's important for people to be proactive about living more sustainably. Everyone needs realize that aquaponics is just a part of a bigger means toward eating healthier food and knowing where your food comes from.
Big Thanks to Robert for sharing his experience, the system is looking great! Don't forget that the Colorado Aquaponics team is a great resource for Aquaponics questions that you may be stuck on. We continuously offer one-day workshops each month that cover everything from fundamental concepts to pump sizing, plumbing, and construction! Check out the Education tab of our website for upcoming class schedules and registration! See you there!
Interested in food security, accessible technologies, or just getting closer to moving "off the grid"? Then come join us at the Self-Reliance Expo on October 4-5 at the National Western Complex. Colorado Aquaponics will be featuring some home-scale systems, taking class registrations, and spreading aquaponic knowledge at our booth this year! Keep an eye on the main stage schedule for an Aquaponics presentation by JD Sawyer, Founder and President of Colorado Aquaponics.
Pine Ridge, SD July 26, 2013 – The American Open Currency Standard (AOCS) joins Colorado Aquaponics (CA) for the “Basics and Build Aquaponics Workshop” on .
Aquaponicly grown organic food, together with the new Oglala Lakota Sioux tribal community currency, offers better choices than what central planning affords most Americans.
Monetarily, Americans are coerced to use central banking currency that constantly loses value due to inflation. This lowers the standard of living over time and erodes wealth that could be used for savings. AOCS encourages Americans to empower communities with local currency. They also help supply the minted coins to Indian Nations such as the Oglala Lakota.
The centrally planned food industry yields similar results in terms of the quality. While no one firm has a monopoly on food distribution, the regulatory structure favors large corporations, as the cost of compliance inhibits entry into the market. It also dictates the way food is grown and processed, steering the market towards an unhealthy diet. The system also creates hostility toward natural alternatives such as raw milk.
Results - central planning & factory farming has been as bad for health and nutrition as central banking has been for the monetary system & economy. Today, First Nations people suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes and chronic disease than any generation in history.
Organic alternatives can be expensive and difficult to access. Our message: Grow Your Own.
CA and AOCS are helping develop a facility in Pine Ridge to teach sustainable farming techniques within the Oglala Lakota Nation. This important outreach will empower Americans and Lakota Indians to enjoy optimum healthy organic foods through Aquaponic farming, as well as serve as a model for other tribes.
Self-reliance and independence are American ideals shared by both organizations within their respective disciplines. That makes AOCS and CA natural partners for a more free America.
The workshop will be held at Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, SD . For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Acre Aquaponics Introduces a Revolutionary Approach to Farm Education and Commercial Aquaponics
Farming methods have changed many times since man planted the first
seed in the ground 10,000 years ago. Most recently, the Green Revolution has transformed farming and dramatically increased farm productivity by using genetically engineered seeds and by applying chemical fertilizers and pesticides. But we are now seeing a backlash to these techniques due to the adverse environmental and health effects of these technologies and chemicals and a corresponding surge in interest in organic, sustainable farming practices and techniques. Enter the Aquaponic Farm Revolution. Aquaponics is a growing technique that takes advantage of the tremendous efficiency of hydroponics, but uses the waste product of fish as the organic source of plant fertilizer in a recirculating environment. The plants, in turn, filter the water in which the fish live.
Aquaponics uses 90% less water then is used in traditional soil-based agriculture, and aquaponic farms can be established anywhere there are people in need of fresh produce – even in parking lots and abandoned warehouses. And through aquaponics, farmers automatically have sustainably-raised fish that they can harvest and sell alongside their produce.Green Acre Aquaponics in Brooksville, FL has both pioneered this growing technique and has created a profitable aquaponics farm model that integrates six different growing techniques (deep water culture, media-based, nutrient film technique, vertical stackers, vertical towers, and wicking beds) in a single hybrid farm system to supply the demands of their ever-changing local market as efficiently as possible.
“Just because something can grow that way doesn’t mean it should grow that way” Gina Cavaliero, Managing Director, Green Acre Aquaponics
These techniques and the technology that underlies them, as well as farm business management and marketing concepts explicitly tailored for aquaponic farms, will be taught during two back-to-back, four-day courses June 15 - 18 and June 20 - 23. The hands-on, farm sessions will be held at the GrowHaus, a non-profit urban farm and market in the heart of a Denver food desert community known as Elyria-Swansea. Here the Green Acre’s Aquaponic Farming Course approaches aquaponic farming education from all angles with the hands-on approach at the farm and detailed aquaponics and business education in the classroom. The goal is to have course students walk away with all the knowledge they need to build, start, and run their own successful, profitable aquaponics farm.
The Green Acres teaching team is comprised of three aquaponics professionals with a unique blend of aquaponics farming experience, industry leadership, and business experience. The course is led by Gina Cavaliero, the Managing Director of Green Acre’s Aquaponics Farm and the current Chair of the Aquaponics Association. Prior to forming Green Acres, Gina was the founder and CEO of a highly successful construction firm in Florida. Gina is joined by JD Sawyer, founder of Colorado Aquaponics and the aquaponics farm at Denver’s GrowHaus, and the director of the 2012 Aquaponics Association Annual Conference in Denver. Prior to forming Colorado Aquaponics, JD spent eight years as the Director of Operations at Johnson & Wales University. The third member of the teaching team is Sylvia Bernstein, author of “Aquaponic Gardening: A Step by Step Guide to Growing Fish and Vegetables Together” and the founder of The Aquaponic Source. Sylvia is the former Vice President of Marketing and Product Development for AeroGrow International.
Where: Flourish Farms at The GrowHaus, 4751 York St, Denver
Why: To get people interested and excited about aquaponics
The Aquaponics Association along with hobby, community and commercial aquaponics enthusiasts around the US are opening their doors during Earth Week to show people the exciting and innovative way that we love growing food. By combining fish and plants together we get more to eat, an excellent protein source, highly nutritious, chemical free foods, that produce zero waste and conserve natural resources. Come check out our home and community-scale aquaponics systems, growing food for our families, local restaurants, markets and providing some nutritious food options for a neighborhood considered a food desert.
So many exciting things happened in 2012. We started the year by acquiring a commercial aquaponics farm in Arvada that we called Flourish Farms. Throughout the year we grew tons of fantastic vegetables, culinary herbs and tasty tilapia which were sold to restaurants and farmer's markets as well as donated to enrich meals for children and elderly who wouldn't otherwise have much access to fresh produce. It was so great to meet our customers every week and hear about their special dinners prepared with our food. We even got to taste raw tilapia done ceviche style, served up at Harvest Week Dinner at GrowHaus by Brandon Foster from Vesta Dipping Grill. It was fantastically good (although I wouldn’t have ever tried making tilapia this way, they are super fresh and we know where they’ve been)…
The spring Koi sale, brought in a bunch of Koi enthusiasts who took home many bright and beautiful koi to make their ponds sparkle with color and character. These fish love people and put on a show every time someone walks near the tanks. We will have another Koi sale this spring for more opportunities for some really amazing premium quality fish.
Workshop, tours and special
events at the farm brought visitors from down the street and around the world who
enjoyed the beautiful colors of the greenhouse, the frantic feasting of the tilapia
and koi, and the fresh flavor of just-harvested farm produce. Denver Botanic Gardens
Urban Farm tour made a stop at Flourish Farms along with several school groups,
and scouts meetings. The kids especially love to plant, harvest and try tasting
things in the greenhouse. Kids seem far more likely to eat kale, chard, lettuce
and even mustard greens when they get to pick it themselves. A group of African
delegates also paid a visit to learn the innovative techniques of aquaponic food
production with minimal water consumption.
September brought hundreds of aquaponics addicts (and we mean this in the nicest sense of the word), to Denver for the 2nd Annual Aquaponics Association Conference. Participants had the opportunity to tour Flourish Farms and the GrowHaus as well as Sustainability Park, then hear from experts and pioneers alike through the conference presentations. It was an informative, mind expanding weekend.
October brought Gina back to Denver for the Green Acre’s Aquaponics Farming Complete Course where over a hundred people joined JD, Gina and Sylvia in the Farm Revolution. It is rewarding to find so many people excited to help solve food quality, availability, localized production, greater self-reliance and environmental change through aquaponics.
November we completed production at Flourish Farms in Arvada, and moved out just after Thanksgiving. It was a whorl-wind weekend, of moving several hundred fish, but every one of them made the trip without casualty (except for the ones that became the celebration dinner, and man were they tasty).
December gave us a bit of pause to reflect on an amazing year, finish a wide variety of projects at GrowHaus, create schedules, procedures, cycle the system and get everything in place for an abundant and productive 2013. Our motto this year is Growing More Greens in 2013. Come check things out any Friday during the GrowHaus Farm Tours from 10am to noon, learn more about aquaponics at one of our many workshops or purchase some of the freshest, nutrient dense vegetables, tasty culinary herbs, or hand fed fish throughout the year at GrowHaus.