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Inspired by Murray Hallam

posted Sep 20, 2010, 8:23 PM by JD Sawyer   [ updated Sep 20, 2010, 9:11 PM ]
On Sunday September 19th, Murray Hallam, the aquaponics guru from Australia, taught a class to about 25 students at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Murray's website is called Practical Aquaponics and is definitely worth checking out. He also has two terrific DVD's on the subject. Special thanks to Sylvia Bernstein from The Aquaponic Source for putting on the class and coordinating the effort.
Murray brings a wealth of experience to aquaponics and it was certainly an honor to learn from him. The presentation was very informative and Murray added a number of personal stories and experiences that helped bring the information to life. Most importantly, Murray was not afraid to tell us about some of the mistakes he has made along the way and I thought that was extremely helpful and encouraging. It's easy to look at other people's systems or experience and think that everything has gone perfectly well, but it's certainly true that we all have our share of failures which is what helps us to learn and get better at what we do.
Among the many things he discussed in class, I particularly liked the "worm feeding station" that Murray incorporates into some of his grow beds. Murray is big proponent of having worms in your grow beds for the purpose of doing what worms do; breaking down solid organic matter and converting it into essential minerals and nutrients, thus helping to eliminate anaerobic zones in your grow beds. Murray adds a screen pipe similar to the one used to help screen the bell siphon from the grow bed media and he places this in the corner of the grow bed. In this tube you can drop in vegetable scraps or compost and the worms will come through the small holes in the screen and consume the compost further adding to the nutrient rich environment already present in the grow bed. Tip: Make sure you put a closed lid on top of the pipe to help keep fruit flies out. This is something we will definitely experiment with on our new grow beds.
We capped off the class with a tour of the GrowHaus, the non profit urban farm and market place in Denver's Elyria-Swansea neighborhood where I have been working on systems and volunteering for several months now. It was certainly an honor for me to have Murray, Sylvia and all of the students touring the facility and asking questions. Murray thought the new bench system was coming along nicely and he offered a few good pointers which I will gladly be incorporating into the system construction that we should be wrapping up this week.