What Should I Do?

Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Growing food with aquaponics
Thursday, November 11, 2010, 6:24 PM

Long-time readers of this site undoubtedly share one thing: We know no matter what exact course the future takes, or what twist or turn the economy makes, the “future,” as we had come to know and think about it for the past 30 years, is now woefully uncertain. I call it “Peak Certainty,” and we passed it sometime between 2008 and today.

The manners in which we thought we’d live our lives, from the realistic to the idealistic, have radically changed. We could be facing hyperinflation, deflation, a currency crisis, social upheaval - all bad enough without factoring in whether Peak Oil manifests itself sooner rather than later. All of these macro-structural developments are of such high impact, whatever plans we may have had need serious reconsideration. 

The breadth and scope of the changes that lie before us quite literally put everything we take for granted in danger. That includes water, food, energy, shelter, medicine, personal safety, and all leisure activities. That is why one of the scopes of this site is to help us build resiliency into our daily lives and our homes, and forms the basis for Dr. Martenson’s series on resiliency, What Should I Do?.

I have been asked to share here what I have learned about a particular food-resilience system called Aquaponics (AP). I am going to focus on the basic concepts, why I have chosen it for my personal food production system, why you should seriously consider it, and where you can go for further research. I cannot explain everything there is to know on the subject because this is a system you need to learn for yourself in order to adapt and apply it to your own locale. Hopefully the following information will help you decide if AP is for you, and if so, how to get started.

Basic Concept

Aquaponics is a food production system based upon mother-nature’s own method of recycling fish waste by feeding it to plants. In a nutshell, that’s the bare-bones definition. You should also know it is highly adaptable to home-based use, is low maintenance, produces very high amount of food/area (food density), and requires very little external inputs.   

How it Works – Layman’s Version

Live fish are grown in a tank. Tank water, which contains fish waste, is pumped from the tank to grow-beds. Grow beds are simple containers filled with gravel and which have plants planted in them on top. Gravel in the grow beds will naturally come to host bacterial colonies which will convert fish waste into plant food. Plants consume the food, water is returned to the fish tank via gravity, and you get to eat organically grown fruits, vegetables, and fish. The fish are happy because their water is kept clean. The plants are happy and grow quickly because they are receiving nutrients 24/7, and you should be happy and healthy having access to home-grown, organically produced food. The only external inputs to the system are electricity and fish food – however even the fish food can be system-grown.

How it Works – Detailed Explanation

You need not understand anything more than the layman’s explanation above in order to get started with Aquaponics. However, a little more knowledge certainly doesn’t hurt and will help you understand how the system works.

Aquaponics takes advantage of mother-nature’s own methods to convert fish waste into plant food. At the heart of this system is what is commonly referred to as the Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen is an essential element necessary for life on Earth as we know it. The Nitrogen Cycle is a series of chemical processes whereby nitrogen from the environment is consumed by living organisms and processed into various different nitrogen-based chemical forms. This is accomplished via a chain of living organisms, each utilizing nitrogen in some way to live, and converting it into another nitrogen-based chemical structure which is then needed by another organism. In this way, nitrogen is continually cycled from the environment, through the biological system, and back into the environment.

This diagram illustrates the various stages of the overall nitrogen cycle in our environment. In Aquaponics, we are only concerned with a portion of this cycle, and we begin the nitrogen cycle at the Ammonium stage (NH4+) since that is what is directly excreted by our fish.

Fish waste, (NH4+), is taken advantage of and is the raw material from which plant food is produced. As can be seen in the illustration above, ammonium is only two chemical steps away from being fully edible plant food, or nitrate (NO3-). What it needs to be converted into nitrate is to be processed by two types of bacteria referred to as nitrifying bacteria. One type of nitrifying bacteria converts ammonium (NH4+) into nitrite (NO2-), and a second type of nitrifying bacteria converts nitrite into nitrate (NO3-). 

Nitrifying bacteria are present almost everywhere in our environment, at some level, and they will be present, though at low levels, in any gravel used for grow beds. Once these bacteria start receiving ammonia-rich tank water on a regular basis, they will multiply and start converting ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate.

In a fully balanced system, which takes 6-8 weeks to develop, your grow bed bacteria will be producing tremendous quantities of nitrate. This will allow your plants to grow and will keep your fish water clean. Once this stage is reached, the system is said to be “matured,” and it pretty much keeps itself balanced, with very little maintenance required.

Aquaponics Advantages

  • Very low maintenance
  • Very high density food production. Regular plant-spacing rules don’t apply because roots do not need the room they need in regular planting.
  • Can be scaled to work in areas as small as apartment balconies to large commercial production facilities.
  • Produces plants as well as animal protein (fish).
  • Allows for very high fish stocking densities.
  • Uses very little water: once the system is going, you only need to replace water lost through evaporation and transpiration of plants.
  • All plant food and “fertilizers” are organically produced – by your fish. No need to deal with hydroponic nutrients or fertilizers, and more importantly, there is no need to be dependent on someone else’s production of these things (which by the way are a marvel of the oil age only).
  • Eliminates waste produced by aquaculture systems.
  • Avoids waste produced by regular hydroponic systems (including water waste).
  • In addition to the gravel grow-bed system, there are continuous-flow systems (aka floating-raft) for much higher-throughput and potential commercial or community-based production.

Potential Disadvantages

  • Moderate to high start-up costs. You’ll need a fish tank, at least one main pump as well as a power-failure back-up pump, grow beds, etc. You may also wish to enclose your set up in a greenhouse.
  • In very cold climates, you may have to heat your water. This could pose a serious disadvantage, but is surmountable.
  • Monitoring PH, ammonia, and nitrate/nitrite levels is very important and in the start-up phase (first 6-8 weeks) can be tedious as you’ll have to test daily. Once the system matures, levels of all these variables will stabilize and monitoring them becomes a weekly task done in under 20 minutes.
  • AP systems have one critical failure point, which is your water pump. A battery back-up system is required, otherwise your fish will all die due to lack of oxygenation upon your first significant power outage. These back-up systems are not complicated, but they do represent an additional expense.
Common Aquaponics Set-Ups

All AP systems must consist of a fish tank and grow beds. The differences between AP systems have to do with two basic design decisions:

  1. The first is how you choose to pump your water from the tank to the grow beds, and how you will drain it back into the tank after it has left the grow beds.
  2. The second has to do with the drain method used in each grow bed.

Grow Bed Drainage:

I’ll start with the second item first: Your grow beds serve both as a soil-less support medium for your plants and as a hosting medium for your bacteria. Later, your grow beds will also attract and host worms and other organisms which contribute to the recycling of fish and plant waste into nitrates. 

Almost all these organisms, and both types of nitrifying bacteria, require both water and oxygen to perform at peak levels. In fact, the bacteria we want cannot do without oxygen at all – their nitrifying function is fully aerobic. For this reason, it is necessary to introduce water into the system without also keeping oxygen out all the time.

Initially, it looks like this poses a problem. We want to be able to flood the grow beds and then drain them quickly. By flooding the grow beds, we ensure that water reaches every nook and cranny underneath the surface, leaving not an inch without water. By draining them, we introduce oxygen to the system, which is required by both plants and bacteria.

So, how do we do this without having complicated pumps and timers set up in each and every grow bed (all prone to fail)? The answer is provided to us by simple and elegant automatic siphons, which use only gravity and the laws of fluid dynamics to perform exactly the functions we need. They are automatic, they’ll function over and over again, are non-mechanical, consume no energy, and unless someone decides to start taxing gravity, function at zero cost.

The most common and favorite type of siphon used in Aquaponics is the Bell Siphon. Here is a video demonstrating one in action:

In our grow beds, we would construct the bell siphon so that it begins to drain water just before the water level reaches the surface of the grow bed gravel (about 5 cm below the surface). That is as high as we need to water to rise. Any higher will not help our plants in any way, and it will lead to algae forming on the surface of our gravel.

There are also loop siphons and other kinds of siphons out there, but the bell siphon is strongly preferred in Aquaponics, and is what I’ve used in my system.

The system by which grow beds are slowly filled and then quickly drained, on a continuous, cycling basis, is known as the “flood and drain” system, or also “ebb and flow” system. If you think about it, it really is a pretty good recreation of what we find in nature in regular dirt gardens – if only nature made it rain on a programmable, controlled basis, and if all our dirt gardens drained just perfectly all the time.

Tank, Bed and Pump Arrangements:

How we choose to arrange our fish tank and grow beds has a little to do with the size system being planned, available space, and the terrain we’re dealing with. Ideally, we want a system that is as simple as possible: one pump with no timers is ideal.

About the simplest system imaginable is to place a grow bed right on top of part of your fish tank, run the pump continuously, and allow the grow bed to flood and then drain straight down into your tank. There is, in fact, nothing wrong with this system, and it will work beautifully.

It is also easy to imagine expanding such a system to include more grow beds. All you need to watch out for is to keep the additional grow beds above the level of the tank so that you can drain the grow beds into the tank. The other key point to keep in mind is that your grow-bed-to-tank volume can range from 1:1 to 3:1, depending on your fish stocking density and the type of fish you have. That means one 1,000 liter tank could feed 3,000 liters of grow beds, at maximum fish stocking capacity, with say, a high-waste producing fish, such as tilapia.

Your fish tank water level will fluctuate as your grow beds fill and drain. If when you install your fish tank, you are unable to excavate and sink it partially or completely into the ground, you may find your grow beds are a little high for your liking.

Some prefer to drain their grow beds into a sump, before then pumping the sump water back into the tank. They also construct their tank so that it is higher than the grow beds, and allow the fish tank water to drain via gravity into the grow beds. This ensures constant water height in the fish tank, which may be important if you’re growing high densities of fish.

In a variant of this last system, the tank water is allowed to drain into the sump. From the sump, water is pumped both into the fish tank and into the grow beds at the same time. Murray Hallam has written about this system recently and highly recommends it. The advantages of this modification are that a) since the fish tank water is not delivered to the grow beds by gravity, the grow beds do not have to be absolutely level, b) by having the water pumped from the sump to the beds, you can install an inline valve on each grow bed, thereby allowing for disconnection in case of maintenance and for bed-by-bed regulation of the water inflow line.

Here are some pictures of different sized aquaponics systems:

Balcony Kit

Patio Kit

Family Sized/Homestead Kit

Aquaponics in a Bathtub

Commercial System

Commercial System

Silver Perch in AP System in Australia

Recommended Sites/Reading

Finally, you're invited to follow Farmer Brown’s own trials, tribulations, and funny stories at Farmer Brown’s Aquaponics

Related content

32 Comments

Travlin's picture
Travlin
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Very good information and a very good presentation Farmer Brown.  What size do you need to provide a family of four with all their protein and veggies, assuming you can grow year round?  Would you be able to breed fish fast enough to keep up?

Travlin 

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Rector
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

I think I will try this just for fun.  My wife will really appreciate this. . .Wink

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Farmer Brown
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Travlin wrote:

Very good information and a very good presentation Farmer Brown.  What size do you need to provide a family of four with all their protein and veggies, assuming you can grow year round?  Would you be able to breed fish fast enough to keep up?

Travlin 

Travlin.

A family of four would be looking at a "homestead"-size set up.  The Cost/Benefit Analysis of Aquaponics Systems has some good information on yields from different sized systems.

Fish are primarily "fertilizer factories" in AP systems, but they most definitely also yield significant protein.  Fish take anywhere from 8-12 months to grow from fingerling size to adulthood.  Once you get to the 6 month stage or so (you'll be able to tell by the size), you can divide you fish tank and keep the slower growers separate from the faster growers.  You can also set up a fingerling tank near or on top of your main fish tank and capture and place fingerlings in it.  The plumbing can be worked out so that the fingerling tank overflows and drains into the main fish tank (no need for additional pumps).  In this way, you'll have 3 sets of fish at different stages of growth.  You can start harvesting your large fish once they reach "plate" size.  You can always freeze fish for future consumption if you have too many coming to full size.

In AP systems, you can stock 1 fish per ten liters of tank volume, so even a small 1,000 liter tank can hold 100 healthy fish.  

Because I live in a warm climate, I am using Tilapia. I just started my system not more than a month ago.  I started with 6 large Tilapias - 4 female and two male.  Yesterday, I discovered one of my females was carrying dozens (perhaps 100?) newly-hatched fish! They carry them in their mouth by the way, and let them out periodically.  They look like miniature tadpoles.  I knew this would happen eventually, but was very excited to see it.  

I have a 1,600 liter tank and started off slow - a few fish and not many grow beds.  Once my fish reproduce, I'll add more grow beds.  It's been a real learning experience getting the thing set up.  I've had major challenges with PH.  PH levels are very important.  It needs to be between 6.0-7.0 for plants to grow well.  Ideally, it should be between 6.2-6.4.  At high PH, "nutrient block out" occurs - making plants incapable of absorbing certain key nutrients (like iron, magnesium, etc).  This in turn reduces plant capability to absorb nitrate.  Of course, that would render any AP system practically a mute exercise.

How Not to Do What I Did:

I loaded my grow beds with gravel from the nearest supply store.  Without testing it.  Big mistake.  It turns out this gravel (and most gravel, in my area) has high quantities of limestone in it.  Limestone will send PH levels up - way up.  My PH was in the 8-8.4 range most of the time.  My plants were growing, but very slowly, and they looked pale.  Meanwhile, nitrate levels were through the roof.  High nitrate levels, over a long period of time, are BAD for fish.  It is impossible to buffer the PH down when you have limestone in your gravel, because any addition of acid (only natural sources, such as a lemon), will only cause the rocks to release more limestone.

I wound up (this week as a matter of fact) gathering small gravel samples from 5 different quarries and running PH tests on all of them.  All read high initially simply due to residue that is left on the gravel from wherever the gravel came from.   I added lemon to each one, brought PH levels down to 6, and then waited 2 days before retesting each one.  Out of five samples, two held at 6 and the others reverted to over 8.  

Now I have the unenvious job of replacing gravel in my grow beds.  Fortunately, since I started small, this only involves two grow beds - one bath-tub sized one, and one about twice as large.

I know you didn't ask all this, but I am sore from all my gravel lifting yesterday and couldn't help writing about it!  Hope this helps.

Tall's picture
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Wow, Thanks Farmer Brown.  Great primer.

Question- I do not care for the taste of tilapia. Is there another fish that would be suited to a family/homestead size system in a temperate climate (USDA zone 7) that included an unheated greenhouse/cold frame type arrangement to protect plants in deepest winter?

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Tall wrote:

Wow, Thanks Farmer Brown.  Great primer.

Question- I do not care for the taste of tilapia. Is there another fish that would be suited to a family/homestead size system in a temperate climate (USDA zone 7) that included an unheated greenhouse/cold frame type arrangement to protect plants in deepest winter?

Tall,

Tilapia is just one of many different kinds of fish that can be used in AP.  However, I am no expert on which fish grow best in which areas.  I am at latitude 9 (Costa Rica) so Tilapia are a great fit for me.  I have read of Tilapia AP systems as far north as Missouri but I am not sure what has to be done as far as water temperature is concerned.  

What I recommend you do is investigate what kind of fish are grown in aquaculture hatcheries in your zone.  Whatever fish is used should work great.  

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Thanks so much for this, FB.  I really appreciated reading about some of your own pitfalls.  Links look good, too.

I'm very interested in trying this, but suspect it would be a challenge to keep all the balls in the air during our New England winters   There's a huge barramundi operation not terribly far from me, but I'm almost positive they heat the whole operation.  I would hate to have to depend on 24/7 electric power to keep my fish alive.. 

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Farmer Brown,

Thank you so much for this logical and lucid explanation of something that I've always wanted to explore.  If I lived in a more temperate clime, I am certain I would have done this already.  The whole notion of freezing solid during the winter has kept this solution from rising higher on my priority list, but once I get all the other things cleared away I may give it a go.

I love the integrated systems aspect of aquaponics.

Thanks again!

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Great write-up FB. I very much enjoy living vicariously through your blog, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

Re the Chicken Sh*t post (I laughed a long time at that one!) you might want to check into grub composting the chicken waste using Black Soldier Fly Larvae, which you could then feed to both your fish and chickens.

More info:

Black Soldier Fly Blog

The BioPod

What I find so intriguing about aquaponics is the fact you could feed a whole personal ecosystem from just urban/suburban waste streams. Waste+ Knowhow = High quality food.

Best....Jeff

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Farmer Brown wrote:

I know you didn't ask all this, but I am sore from all my gravel lifting yesterday and couldn't help writing about it!  Hope this helps.

I appreciate the detail.  I find your project very interesting.  I'm trying to get a sense of what portion of a family's food needs can be met with this method.  It seems that with some grains, and beans as another source of protein, you could meet all food requirements.  If you had some hamsters on wheels to run your pump you would be totally self contained. Cool   Lacking that, how many times per day would some kids have to pump out the fish tank by hand in an emergency?

Travlin   

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Farmer Brown - Great post! From David Blume's book "Alcohol Can Be a Gas" I learned integrating ethanol production with aquaponics makes a lot of sense. So far just a vision, but I'm looking at the feasiblity.

Tall - Cost/Benefit Analysis of Aquaponics Systems discusses other species, including Rainbow Trout.

quad

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Travlin,

The short answer is you can grow almost all your veggies with AP, and also some fruit.  Murray Hallam in Australia has even grown papaya trees and lemon trees, and is experimenting with other trees.  Carrots and radishes are not supposed to do well.  Neither, I believe, onions.  I am experiementing with asparagus.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, all leafy veggies (lettuces, cabbage, spinach), herbs, strawberries, brocoli, cauliflour, peppers, and most other things do great.

When the power goes out, it is not your plants you need to worry about.  They'll do fine w/o water for a whole day.  It is your fish that will bite the bullet, and not because of amonia or nitrate levels, but because they need oxygen.  Even 20 minutes without sufficient O2 levels can be fatal.  They may not die right away, but in a few days you'll have fish floating in your tank. 

You MUST have a battery-powered back-up pump.  I use a regular marine-type bilge pump (cost abput $80) hooked up to a 12V deep cycle marine battery (those are expensive, but I decided to go with the highest capacity battery I could find).  The circuit is plugged into a relay that detects 120V mains power.  When the power goes off, the relay closes the battery-pump circuit, and the pump kicks in.  My battery will keep my back up pump going for 23 hours.  Yes, I tested and measured it!

This back up pump is not used to circulate water through the AP system.  It merely pumps water up a hose above the tank water level, which is then turned so that the water sprays over the surface of the tank water.  Its only function is to break water surface tension excessively so that oxygen and other gases are exchanged. 

There is also a low-voltage, slow-charging battery charger hooked up to the battery.  It charges the battery whenever the  power is on, and when the power goes off, well it stops working.  You can get these for $40-$60 at most hardware stores or at Radio Shack.

The relay I had to have built because I could not find one on the market.  However, I would imagine these are available in larger markets.  You do not want a regular computer UPS because a) those will function even when the power is on, which is a waste, b) you'll have to convert their 120V output to 12V output for a marine bilge pump to work and c) unless you buy a very expensive UPS, there is no way those things are going to outlast even a small marine battery.  Besides, marine batteries, with the battery charger clamps, hooked up to a trange relay box, and with wires going to the pump just looks cool.  Cool

For anyone versed in solar power, or in a place with sufficient wind power, a back up pump may not be necessary at all, but of course those options are very expensive.

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Farmer Brown,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this.  I've been curious about this for a while but haven't done anything yet.  Seeing your post is giving me the push to look at this seriously(along with Chris's admonition to step up preparedness efforts).

                   Thanks again, 

                              Kevin

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Farmer Brown wrote:

This back up pump is not used to circulate water through the AP system.  It merely pumps water up a hose above the tank water level, which is then turned so that the water sprays over the surface of the tank water.  Its only function is to break water surface tension excessively so that oxygen and other gases are exchanged. 

<Snip> Even 20 minutes without sufficient O2 levels can be fatal.  They may not die right away, but in a few days you'll have fish floating in your tank.

That's all very interesting.  So absent all electric power you could have a mechanical paddle wheel churning the surface of the fish tank, and carry water or hand pump it to the grow beds where it is returned by gravity.  Sounds like someone as small as a child could do this all day and still sleep at night without the fish dying.  If your fish tank was low enough compared to the grow beds the return water could even spray the fish tank.  That's probably not practical, but doable.   

Travlin 

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Very nice FB!  I have a few <ahem> fish to fry before I get to hacking up an AP setup, but it's been on my wishlist for some time now.  Thanks for the primer!

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Travlin wrote:

Farmer Brown wrote:

This back up pump is not used to circulate water through the AP system.  It merely pumps water up a hose above the tank water level, which is then turned so that the water sprays over the surface of the tank water.  Its only function is to break water surface tension excessively so that oxygen and other gases are exchanged. 

<Snip> Even 20 minutes without sufficient O2 levels can be fatal.  They may not die right away, but in a few days you'll have fish floating in your tank.

That's all very interesting.  So absent all electric power you could have a mechanical paddle wheel churning the surface of the fish tank, and carry water or hand pump it to the grow beds where it is returned by gravity.  Sounds like someone as small as a child could do this all day and still sleep at night without the fish dying.  If your fish tank was low enough compared to the grow beds the return water could even spray the fish tank.  That's probably not practical, but doable.   

Travlin 

Travlin,

I guess, in theory, that's in theeeeeeoory, I suppoooooose, that maaaaay work.   But-I-do-not-recommend-it.  At all.  Ever. 

Maybe your 6-year old is more compliant, consistent, and reliable than a 40-lb marine deep cycle battery and the laws of physics, but none I know are! 

And I don't think a paddle wheel will keep a big tank (anything from a patio-sized kit and above) oxygenated.  I speak from the gut only and maybe it is possible, but I highly doubt it. 

In any case, don't get hung up on the electricity or the back up pump.  Neither are reason enough to have or not to have an AP system.  Neither pump will consume much EE at all, and if you wanted to go through the expense and be completely gridless, a small solar panel ought to do the trick. 

PS:  If any of your children are disciplined enough to take the place of a pump, maybe you should write up a "What Should I Do?" post on child-rasing skills! Wink

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Travlin
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Farmer Brown wrote:

PS:  If any of your children are disciplined enough to take the place of a pump, maybe you should write up a "What Should I Do?" post on child-rasing skills! Wink

Well, I find whips and chains effective for a job like this.  If they can't go anywhere they'll do at least a little work out of bordom.  But I'm a good parent.  I said I'd let them sleep at night.  Smile  Yeah, I was talking theory.  The reliability of the worker would be extremely low.  It is amazing how hard children will work to avoid doing a job.  Thanks for all the info.

Travlin 

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Rector wrote:

I think I will try this just for fun.  My wife will really appreciate this. . .Wink

Rector, I can definitely assure you this is loads of fun!  I have not learned about so many disparate topics (chemistry, biology, electricity, ecology, physics, fluid dynamics, plant biology) interconnected by one system in a long time.  Scratch that - ever.  Once my system fully takes off, and assuming I don't immediately build a bigger one or a commercial system, I will definitely get our school to build one.  It's a great source for feeding the mind as well as the stomach.

apismellifera wrote:

Thanks so much for this, FB.  I really appreciated reading about some of your own pitfalls.  Links look good, too.

I'm very interested in trying this, but suspect it would be a challenge to keep all the balls in the air during our New England winters   There's a huge barramundi operation not terribly far from me, but I'm almost positive they heat the whole operation.  I would hate to have to depend on 24/7 electric power to keep my fish alive.. 

Keeping your water at temperatures adequate for your fish is definitely a big consideration.  However, remember water has a very high heat capacity, so once you get it at temperature, it does not lose (or gain) heat easily.  I am definitely not experienced in this, but I would think an enclosed system with some sort of water heater should work.  I'd turn it off at night to prevent the grow beds from acting as heat sinks.  That won't hurt the plants any.  In fact, some people turn their pump off at night even in warm climates as it allows the fish to clean the pump off so you don't have to do it.  That's one of those weekly or so chores that's included in the maintenance of these systems.

cmartenson wrote:

Farmer Brown,

Thank you so much for this logical and lucid explanation of something that I've always wanted to explore.  If I lived in a more temperate clime, I am certain I would have done this already.  The whole notion of freezing solid during the winter has kept this solution from rising higher on my priority list, but once I get all the other things cleared away I may give it a go.

I love the integrated systems aspect of aquaponics.

Thanks again!

It is my pleasure to contribute something to this fine site and community.  Thanks for the opportunity to be of help and for all the great info.

JAG wrote:

Great write-up FB. I very much enjoy living vicariously through your blog, thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

Re the Chicken Sh*t post (I laughed a long time at that one!) you might want to check into grub composting the chicken waste using Black Soldier Fly Larvae, which you could then feed to both your fish and chickens.

More info:

Black Soldier Fly Blog

The BioPod

What I find so intriguing about aquaponics is the fact you could feed a whole personal ecosystem from just urban/suburban waste streams. Waste+ Knowhow = High quality food.

Best....Jeff

Jeff:  This is all your fault.  I would have never gotten started with AP if you had not stuck my nose in it. Wink  I think I am going to go with duckweed as a fish food supply.  Will post it on the blog when I get there.  I do like the bio pod and the black soldier fly system though.

Quadium wrote:

Farmer Brown - Great post! From David Blume's book "Alcohol Can Be a Gas" I learned integrating ethanol production with aquaponics makes a lot of sense. So far just a vision, but I'm looking at the feasiblity.

Tall - Cost/Benefit Analysis of Aquaponics Systems discusses other species, including Rainbow Trout.

quad

No way!  You mean I can have fish and beer without ever having to leave the greenhouse!  I will definitely be checking this out.  Thanks!

kmaher wrote:

Farmer Brown,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this.  I've been curious about this for a while but haven't done anything yet.  Seeing your post is giving me the push to look at this seriously(along with Chris's admonition to step up preparedness efforts).

                   Thanks again, 

                              Kevin

SagerXX wrote:

Very nice FB!  I have a few <ahem> fish to fry before I get to hacking up an AP setup, but it's been on my wishlist for some time now.  Thanks for the primer!

Glad this was of help!  I'll post some updates on my system in a few days/weeks.  I am also looking forward to more articles in this great series.  Thanks Adam and the rest of the CM team.

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Poet
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Thank you, Farmer Brown! Very interesting stuff!

For those who are interested in appropriate fish for temperate and northern regions where water can get very cold and freeze, it looks like goldfish, koi, and those of the carp family can overwinter provided the water is very deep and ice is kept broken up (or maybe in a greenhouse environment).

http://www.pond-doctor.co.uk/longoverwinteringfish.html

Poet

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Re: Northern climate Aquaponics,

If your going to build or use a greenhouse anyways, aquaponics will maximize the productive output of the available space, and provide some much needed thermal mass to maximize passive solar heating. A good design will also help with summer overheating as well.

Here are some videos from a colorado based aquaponics practitioner.

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Hey JAG-

  I would love to see the videoa you reference for Northern Climate Aquaponics but am not seeing them show up on your post...

  -pinecarr

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Pinecarr, That's strange they show up fine for me. Did you "ignore user" me? lol.Surprised

Give me a minute to post the links directly....Jeff

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Links to videos:

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Full Moon
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

JAG ,    Do you have a dollar amount that this set up costs to set up and how much it cost to keep running ?

I know, I know ,  some people have to put their money somewhere .  But for those who do not  how long will it take to see any profit ?

FM 

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Thank you Farmer Brown... I had no idea how elegant Aquaponics is, nor that it could run at such a wide range of scales (pun intended),    

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

I've seen this work here in Australia.

It's interesting, but in my opinion it's way too complex, requiring technology which in the future may not be available when things wear out.....

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Many thanks Farmer Brown.  I see from your comments that you live in Costa Rica. I too have built a

residence/retreat in Lagunas, near Dominical, Please see: www.AwarenessCenters.com and click onto

Costa Rica retreat on left.  Part of my reason for this is to BE PREPARED for whatever.

Even though I live in Nyack, NY,  most of the year I still want a SAFE and SECURE piece of the earth.

Reasons for SURVIVING in Costa Rica:

No heating systems needed

Plenty of farming land, with many Farmers markets all over the place, with great sun and rain

No heavy clothes, no snow, ice, cold, etc.

Friendly local people who, frequently, ALREADY have community and are inviting

No capital gains taxes, very low property taxes

Incredible vistas and views with much of the country protecting rainforests, etc.

Opportunities to CREATE even more INTIMATE community of like-minded enlightened folks

Property fairly cheap and building costs exceedingly low (labor costs are embarassing)

Please feel free to add your reasons for our friends making comments.

Ken Pollinger, Ph.D. zenpollinger@gmail.com 845-358-6448 in NY.

Hope to make contact with you in CR.

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pinecarr
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Thanks JAG!  No, no way did I "ignore-user" you!;). 

But I am visiting family and staying at a hotel, so I'm stuck using their business lobby computer.  So maybe that could have soemthing to do with it?  Anyhow, glad to have the links; thanks Cap'n!

BTW, AWESOME post FB!! 

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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Oh, and FB:  thanks for the "Peak Certainty" concept.  Excellent food for thought...

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Farmer Brown
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

KennethPollinger wrote:

Many thanks Farmer Brown.  I see from your comments that you live in Costa Rica. I too have built a

residence/retreat in Lagunas, near Dominical, Please see: www.AwarenessCenters.com and click onto

Costa Rica retreat on left.  Part of my reason for this is to BE PREPARED for whatever.

Even though I live in Nyack, NY,  most of the year I still want a SAFE and SECURE piece of the earth.

Reasons for SURVIVING in Costa Rica:

No heating systems needed

Plenty of farming land, with many Farmers markets all over the place, with great sun and rain

No heavy clothes, no snow, ice, cold, etc.

Friendly local people who, frequently, ALREADY have community and are inviting

No capital gains taxes, very low property taxes

Incredible vistas and views with much of the country protecting rainforests, etc.

Opportunities to CREATE even more INTIMATE community of like-minded enlightened folks

Property fairly cheap and building costs exceedingly low (labor costs are embarassing)

Please feel free to add your reasons for our friends making comments.

Ken Pollinger, Ph.D. zenpollinger@gmail.com 845-358-6448 in NY.

Hope to make contact with you in CR.

Ken,

Good to "meet" you!  I'm in Turrubares (near Orotina).  One of my best friends is from Nyack, NY.  Drop me a line if you'll be this way.

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pinecarr
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Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

Sager wrote:

Oh, and FB:  thanks for the "Peak Certainty" concept.  Excellent food for thought...

Yes, I loved that concept too, Sager (and FB)!

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KennethPollinger
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Posts: 236
Re: Peak Certainty, Food Resilience, and Aquaponics

For those of you interested in COMMUNITY, I recommend:

www.greenpropertycostarica.com, where Dennis Garber has created a wonderful CONCEPT.

I'd also like to see Chris's comments regarding:"There Will Be Fuel: New Oil and Gas Sources

Abound, but they Come with Costs," by Clifford Krauss in NYTimes, Nov 17, in Energy Section, page F1.

Seems to dent the peak oil concept???

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Posts: 546
AquaPonic system with Lobster n shrimp size crayfish

Hi All - I love this topic and I love that anyone with a little water and imagination can raise fish and fruit n veggies year round.

I started experimenting with systems in 1999 and my fish of choice was the giant Australian crayfish (red claws) that can grow to nearly 1 1/2 pounds. Not all of them grow that big but the smaller ones are shrimp size so no loss there. I raised them here in MN for 6 years and they multiplied us out of our house till I said - enough - we need a farm!

Living in MN means I had to re-think how to manage my tank system and after we "bought the farm" I began to think how I could do it small scale, and later large scale.

Well recently I ran into another red claw expert only he DID commercial red claw culture in South America for 12 years. Together we wrote a book (available on Amazon "Raising Freshwater Lobster n Shrimp Size crayfish") and I am again setting up for a larger scale production.

There is a trick to raising tropical fish in the north. The tanks need to be a near constant 78 degrees. I lucked out because my husband and I had just started collecting broken refrigerators/freezers and converted them to brood ers, so we modified those to hold the first of the red claws that arrived two weeks ago.

Here's a picture of the red claw:

Raising Lobster n Shrimp Size CrayfishHere's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Freshwater-Lobster-Crayfish-ebook/dp/B008DMI0QI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341347005&sr=8-1&keywords=raising+lobster+n+shrimp+size+crayfish

Granted, I can only store my fish in the tanks in winter and they have to grow out in outdoor tanks, but from all my experience and years studying these creatures, they are nearly a perfect aqua-ponic species. They multiply like crazy and they are one of only a handful of freshwater crayfish that tolerate being crowded.

For my winter tanks, which I am getting ready in the fall, I plan on adding a shelving system over the tanks to grow food on until it gets too cold in the barn. Then start the system again in the spring. By next spring, my stock will be large enough to breed and produce fry around April and then in May, the fry will go out to the first grow-out tanks, which I also want filtered in a ponic system. A single red clay female will produce almost 1,000 fry to raise!

The ponic system I tried in 2000 was pretty basic - I floated styro-foam on their kiddie pool and poked holes through and put plants in the holes. They loved eating the roots and the plants loved all the nutrients. Unfortunately plants don't produce much fruit on just the high nitrogen supplied....but they were very big and leafy!

I will be loading pictures of the system as it develops for those interested. Feel free to ask questions, but the book covers all the basics.

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